The Problem With Management Dashboards
by: Mats Andersson
THE PROBLEM WITH MANAGEMENT DASHBOARDS
Grady Booch, one of the key inventors of the Unified Modeling Language (UML), once wrote: "We use processes because we are afraid." We are afraid that we will produce a product of inferior quality; give our customers poor service; deliver projects late; be unable to fulfil our commitments. Our hope is that if we formalize and codify our experience into an "optimized" process and regularly measure its performance against target values, it will work predictably and take away our fears. In short, automated process performance measurement exists to ensure stability, repeatability, quality and control. However, these advantages come at a cost: our process performance measurement models constrain our scope of attention to preset variables based on experience. Properly implemented, management dashboards are extremely valuable tools that offer new possibilities for decision support based on up-to-the-minute performance information that decision-makers of only five years ago could only dream about. Yet they neither tell us how to deal with new situations, nor provide answers as to why deviations from target values occur in the first place. The "executive cockpit" simile is an attractive one, but there are real and concrete dangers in taking it too literally, or in approaching it too mechanistically.