This blog is about organizational performance, but first I need to set the stage.
One of the most prized commodities in many organizations, including mine, is space. Space is tight. Organizational (business) units are always looking to keep their current space and grab more space from other units. My organization regularly does space audits and reallocates space as appropriate. A former deputy director used to conduct "space walks" to look for underutilized space and reallocate it. On one of those walks, he came upon an office that appeared to be unoccupied, but had a few papers and a yellow banana on the desk. He concluded the space was in use because the fresh banana had to be a recent addition. But he misinterpreted the evidence and took a leap of faith: a clever manager had retained space just by placing a ripe banana on the desk. No one was actually using the space productively. The problem was that the deputy director did not explore further than what he could see on the surface. Yet how many times in our daily and work activities do we look no further than the intact banana?
Our responsibilities require that we look at the condition of the intact banana, peel the banana and examine the insides, and finally examine the area around the banana.
I liken the intact banana to the top level metrics senior executives review to determine overall organizational performance.
Is the banana nice and firm and yellow?
Is the banana getting soft in spots?
Is the banana tuning black?
While knowing the condition of the intact banana is important, it does not guide you in improving performance or striving for excellence. You need to peel back the skin and look deeper.
That perfect banana will not reveal where there are internal variations or how you might create a bigger and better banana.
Is the banana uniformly good (or bad)?
Could your good banana be even better? Could it receive recognition at the county fair?
Why is the banana turning black?
Are there better bananas nearby?
Is there a new fungus that is attacking banana plants in your geographic area?
Could you be the creator of a new hybrid fruit?
I have not been exhaustive in this little parable. However, the organizational analogies are clear. Too many organizations become complacent by looking only at overall performance, not managing by fact, or being selective in the data that are reviewed. Complacency can lead to a real or avoidable crisis, or can result in ignoring best practices within an organization that could catapult the organization to higher performance.
The Baldrige Excellence Framework and the introductory Baldrige Excellence Builder can make sure you are asking all the right questions to prevent complacency or crisis and improve and sustain high performance in your organization.
The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.
Why not consider framing your questions to be open ended?
Thanks for the comment. These questions were meant to assess current status. The logical next steps are to ask "why" and then "what should we do, if anything." If things are going well, you might decide to continue current processes or look to enhance them. If things are not going well, the next steps might be root cause analysis and then action planning.