A month or two ago I talked about passing the 200,000 mile mark on my Ford Explorer, and now that icon of American Society – the automobile – has again provided me with another life and business lesson.

It all started when the “battery” indicator light on my dashboard started to flicker.   Now, clearly something was wrong, even if it was only a malfunction of the indicator light.   But what was interesting was my reaction to it.   “Maybe the light is malfunctioning”, “nothing could be wrong, I just had it serviced”, “maybe it will be fine after the engine warms up”. So I went through the typical human responses: surprise, disappointment, denial, rationalization, and hoping the problem would just go away. (Note: these are emotional reactions to data, not intellectual ones).

So after doing that dance in my head, I finally started working on solutions. “Since I’m busy today and tomorrow, I will make an appointment for Friday to get it checked out”… It was “inconvenient” for me to take it to the experts immediately. And of course, I was still hoping that it would “fix itself” by then.

Predictably – before Friday came around, the electrical system stopped working while I was traveling on the Interstate Freeway and I had to be towed to a mechanic for repairs. I was very lucky, and the repairs were reasonably minor.

Key Performance Indicators

Dashboards provide us with a great deal of information.   Not ALL the data about the car is available, but we see enough information in a timely manner to operate the automobiles safely and to take appropriate actions when necessary. We have the speedometer, which we need all of the time, the odometer, fuel gauge and turn signal indicators which we need daily, and a variety of warning lights to indicate when something is wrong, or is about to go wrong. Volumes have been written about Key Performance Indicators in business – because they are so important.

Without these tools we would just be guessing.

Life and Business

So likewise in our life and business – we have key performance indicators. For our health we have temperature, hunger, thirst, blood pressure and heart rate.   We monitor those daily, both consciously and subconsciously.   For more detailed analysis, we have blood tests, physical examinations, specialized tests and scans of many varieties.

In business we have the same thing: daily indicators of how the business is operating and its current health and condition; weekly and monthly indicators of our progress and current operations; and finally critical indicators – like the warning lights on dashboards – that tell us that something is not right and we need to take action soon if not immediately.

Watch the Dashboard

Data is data. It is not emotional, it can’t think – it can’t cause or solve a problem.   However, it can be our friend. But we have to act on the data. So here’s a simple formula for success:

  1. Make sure you have identified the appropriate “Key Performance Indicators” for your life, your health and your business.
  2. Watch the dashboards carefully and consistently. If they are the correct things to watch, you can travel safely and with ease, and don’t ignore them!
  3. Be proactive and take action.   Even the best car on the planet will run out of fuel, or parts will wear out. When your indicator lights go on – in business or in your personal life – be proactive, take action. Some problems require immediate attention, some can be deferred.
  4. Use experts. I can’t fix my own car, nor can I perform surgery.   Don’t be afraid to hire the experts to help you solve whatever problems you have identified. You need to get the job done right.

Have a Great Ride!