Managing to the Numbers is a lot like Painting by the Numbers

Managing to the Numbers is a lot like Painting by the Numbers


Managing by the numbers is a lot like painting by the numbers. It might give you a nice pretty picture but it lacks originality and inspiration.

Working in a manufacturing environment there is a huge focus on numbers. How fast are the machines running, how many pieces an hour are we producing, how much down time do we have, etc.

Data is important to understanding how well a process is working, but they don’t tell the whole picture. Managers get so focused on numbers and metrics that they lose sight of the big picture. They lose sight of the people in the process.

Focusing on numbers, while losing sight of people, can alienate and make people feel like cogs in a machine.

Production and financial numbers should be used to tell a story that people can understand. They should be used to guide people and help them to understand their role in the process. The numbers should be the start of a conversation not the end of it.

When talking to people about production and financial figures always help them see their role in either achieving the goals or working toward the goals.

Don’t become so caught up in the numbers that you fail to consider other factors driving the numbers. It is difficult to get the entire picture from just a bunch of figures. There are underlying factors that can’t be captured by metrics.

People, team cohesion, and input factors cannot be captured by data collection.

There are no numbers that will tell you when people are unhappy or dissatisfied with their work or that will tell you when there is an issue with the team dynamic.

An environment that has been poisoned by too much focus on production metrics can be hard to fix. Managers who focus solely on numbers without considering what the real causes are, or having empathy for the people in the process, have a difficult time mending those relationships.

Likewise, input factors, such as low quality raw materials that create production issues will get lost in the data. Often cheaper materials are purchased due to the fact that it looks good as a line item on a financial report. It is much harder to capture the true cost of production inefficiencies created by the poor quality raw material especially in processes with many input factors.

Gathering and reporting data is important in any business. It helps guide decisions in regards to investments and payback. Data tells whether a process is working or needs adjustment and gives guidance as to profitability and loss.

All the data in the world will not tell you what people know.

They know what is working with a given process and what is not. When it comes to team dynamics, only people can tell you what is and isn’t working.

Let the numbers be a guide but let your focus be on the people. Don’t allow yourself to be so driven by statistics and data that you forget the dynamic nature of what you are being asked to manager. Allow yourself the freedom to paint outside the lines and create something bigger than the numbers would allow.




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