What does a pilot do during a flight? A pilot is actually the person responsible to take you from point A to point B, while taking the safest and most optimized route. And what is his secret weapon? The answer is: his cockpit. A cockpit is the cabin containing the flying controls, instrument panel, and seats for the pilots. A decision maker should use his scorecard solution in the exact same manner.
What does a pilot need to know during the flight? He needs to know the final destination to define the optimal route, the right altitude to avoid other plane or reduce turbulences, the weather conditions to confirm that the chosen path is the most secure one, all information about his plane to confirm its perfect operating conditions throughout the flight as well as some other strategic information about the flight’s specifications.
The pilot has a mission to accomplish and the cockpit helps him evaluate to which extend the flight is proceeding according to plans. Whenever a change is required, it helps him take the appropriate corrective action (stray the trajectory, change the altitude, increase wings’ surface, etc.).
Managing a scorecard should work in a very similar manner. Indeed, having a metric that measures the altitude is not FYI; it is to ensure the plane does not face any obstacle. Having a cash flow indicator in a company scorecard operates in the same way. The indicator is not an end in itself; it is a mean to visualize the underlying realities in order to take the actions that matter. As such, when defining Key Performance Indicators, it is critical to understand what realities and concrete elements those indicators are influencing.
Once these have been well defined and implemented, it is time to manage the overall cockpit and be sure that every important point is assessed during steering committees. It is the “cockpits briefing”, as defined in Professor George’s work1. A cockpit briefing is a methodology to ensure meeting efficiency and avoid spending time on insignificant subjects. Like a pilot during the flight, you should be able to detect a deviation from the plan under a single and quick visualization and conduct actions to rectify it.
Here are some principles recommendations to ensure that you and your team will keep your plane on route and optimize your briefing process:
–Don’t focus on too many indicators: the idea is to keep thing clear and brief. In order to do so, focus on indicators that warn about an unsatisfactory situation – a red indicator or a deviation; and don’t lose time focusing you attention on green indicators
–Prepare your steering committee: a preparation must be done before the cockpit briefing in order to decide upstream which points will be discussed
–Contextualize information: the preparation will help in contextualizing information at the beginning of the cockpit briefing in order to discuss concrete elements
–Adopt the following motto: “No cry, no tears, and no excuses, just actions on deviances”: the cockpit briefing doesn’t serve to rap on the knuckles or to find a guilty. Don’t focus on past actions – as they are past; and get your attention on the ones that need to be setup
–Briefings must be limited in time
–At the end of every briefing, actions monitoring must be setup: who has to do what and when?
–An impact monitoring must also be setup: it is good to conduct actions but it is much better when you can evaluate the impacts. To do so, plan to reevaluate indicators regularly
Finally, it is useful to specify that there are three kinds of cockpit briefing:
–Operational briefing: conducted every month, they should be based on recommendations made above
–Tactical briefing: conducted quarterly or semiannually, those briefing focus on objectives and targets to reach in order to confirm or adjust their values
–Strategic briefings: conducted annually, they are serving to evaluate the right alignment between the cockpit elements and the strategy and if appropriate, modify indicators held in the cockpit.
In order to reach cockpit success, roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined for each cockpit contributors. This point will be further developed in the next article! Don’t forget to check it out!
1 Source: Georges, Patrick (2002), ”Le management cockpit, des tableaux de bords qui vont à l’essentiel. Édition d’organisation. ”