Introduction to capability charts

Numbers are the lifeblood of management decisions. However, the quality of decision-making will depend on whether numbers illuminate or obscure.

It is quite normal for a manager to, for instance, look at two measures of output from a unit reporting to him and treat them as though they told different stories. The first number (last week’s) being ‘high’, is good, and he gives the unit a pat on the back. The second number (this week’s) is ‘low’, which is bad, so he tells them to pull their socks up. When the next number (the following week) goes up he feels gratified that his intervention has obviously had the desired effect. But what if this variation were normal, only to be expected from performance?

See: This year versus last year

To put it another way: what if all these numbers, for all that they go up and down, are (operationally) the same; and being the same, reflect a performance that is static; what then is the value of his managerial behaviour? If the performance does not change, what added value has his contribution made?

What would be the career prospects of a manager who achieves no change in performance, though he pays very close attention to the numbers?

Ironically, his career might not suffer at all, because most managers suffer from the same lack of understanding of what performance numbers are telling them.

Capability measures illuminate what is going on. They help managers understand the variation in performance and thus the predictability of performance.

Next step: Performance capability