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Using Performance Metrics to Do More with Less
A 7-Step Action Plan for Operations Manager

by Maria Ford, www.pureshare.comWednesday, April 1, 2009
Metric Type Contextual Metric Consequences

We have a problem: Driver A’s average speed is 65m/hour on the freeway, and 50m/hour in the city. His city driving speed is 15 m/hour higher than our company standard.

If freeway driving speed exceeds 70m/hour, render this metric in the colour red and send me an email.

If city driving speed exceeds 40m/hour, alert me on my Blackberry.


We’re on track: 103 bicycles sold last month; our target was 100; last year at this time we sold 75.

If the number of bicycles sold each month is lower than the same month in the previous year, render this metric in yellow and generate a management report showing monthly sales trends for the past two years and this year to date.

Help Tickets

We have a problem: We have 155 open tickets, which is 75 tickets more than last week at this time. 8 agents are handling the 155 tickets at an average of 20 tickets each. That is 5 tickets more per agent than our help desk standard.

If open tickets exceed 15 per agent, alert my help desk manager to call in extra staff.

Just a few examples of consequences are:

  • Do nothing
  • Send alert or email
  • Escalate a process
  • Create and send a document
  • Shut down a processes
  • Change the display of the metric


The final step of the action plan is to package, or present, the metrics for the stakeholder(s) that you have chosen to focus on. It is best to think visually, as the visual examples provided in this paper have shown. Gauges, charts, graphs, maps, colours and other images or icons can be used to very quickly convey the status of key metrics.

First, consider the stakeholder/audience that will view the information and try to present that information in an easily digestible way. The examples shown on the following page illustrates this well. It shows different stakeholder views of metrics regarding a delivery fleet’s vehicle preventative maintenance performance.

In the first view, the Fleet Manager is able to see performance metrics for the overall fleet’s preventative maintenance compliance, as well as breakdowns of that information by period, vehicle type, region (division), and location (area). It is easy for him to determine whether overall preventative maintenance performance is on track (green) or needs to be addressed (red).

In the second view of the same information, a Regional Fleet Manager sees the same metrics but only for his particular region. He can “drill up” to compare his region’s performance with the other regions, or “drill in” for details on any of the metrics that concern him.

Visual metrics view 1: Overall Fleet Manager View

Visual metrics view 2: Regional Fleet Manager View



When planning how you will present the information to stakeholders, use these guidelines:

  1. Include the context. As per Step 6, be sure that the metrics are presented within context for the audience. Ideally, the user should not need to think or analyse the visual presentation in order to have the answer to two key questions:

    • Are things going well or badly?
    • Do I need to take any action?
  2. Layer the information. Organize the information so that the audience sees the most important information and gets the most important answers immediately. Then, provide mouse-overs or supporting data to provide information that the audience may need about what is contributing to that metric.
  3. Be consistent. Be sure that your visual presentations are always consistent. For example, from chart to chart, week to week, and month to month, the same colours should always be used to mean the same things. This is true of graphs, charts, icons, symbols and more. When presenting visual information, less is absolutely more effective.
  4. Use conventions. In addition to being consistent within your own presentations, be consistent with common cultural or industry conventions. For example, in North America, the colour red denotes an urgent problem or high alert, while green denotes a non-urgent or “OK” state. So, when you present your performance metrics visually, use the colour red to indicate problems and green to indicate that things are alright. Conventions also apply to how you should use icons and symbols to convey information visually.

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