We love sharing good deeds like a great one we saw last month when good Samaritans came to the aid of a man in Australia who got his leg stuck while boarding a train. The man ultimately was fine, but the best part was watching dozens of commuters on the platform tilt the train to the side to free his leg. In fact, because train platforms in the United Kingdom can be especially treacherous, the London Underground started a campaign in 1968 using the phrase “Mind the Gap” to alert passengers to the space between the platform and the train. Now, the phrase is used by transit authorities around the world.
Like passengers on a train platform, we in the social sector also need a reminder to “mind the gap” between where we are standing and where we want to go. Our favorite tool for minding the gap is dashboards. Dashboards can be useful in a number of ways, such as tracking key metrics and tracking progress toward a strategic plan. In addition, they are a great tool for not only tracking progress, but also for communicating it. For example, board and staff can quickly review the dashboard and focus on things that need their attention. To do this effectively, many people use signal lights (green = celebrate, yellow = caution, and red = act). Similar to the Australian good Samaritans, armed with this information, your board and staff can know when to properly work together to “tilt” the scales in your favor.
To develop a dashboard, it is important to decide what to track. For a strategic plan, organizations develop high-level objectives about where they want to go. For example, a high-level objective could be to improve internal communications. Once that is defined, staff and/or board need to develop a connected project plan (e.g., assemble a committee) with deadlines, owners and completion percentages associated with each activity to track progress toward the objective. We have included a sample dashboard in Excel with many types of objectives to better understand how to construct one.
We hope you start to “mind the gap” by using dashboards as a tool to communicate as well as track your progress toward your strategic plan or any other plan is important to your organization. We welcome your input on how you use dashboards in your organization. Tune in next week for our blog on ground rules.