KPI dashboards: a prerequisite of agile culture is metrics ‘at a glance’.

I’ve recently started working with a very well known fast-food chain. In the early part of the program, one member of the marketing team told me that “there is a dashboard”.

I haven’t yet been able to see the dashboard, but it’s early days. However, I notice that in these early days, I have also yet to meet a member of the marketing team that instinctively quotes any of the KPIs on this dashboard, or explains their own role with reference to it.

This is a 20 person marketing team using some of the leading agencies in London to provide services and I am experiencing a noticeable lack of KPIs in the discussion. It’s early days and this is a team that has undergone some very unusual disruption, so it might turn out that the dashboard has been forgotten through other distractions.

I got thinking about this noticeable difference; why did I consider the dashboard so important? Do I simply have a distorted sense of the importance of a dashboard because I consult for a provider of data services (a little self-awareness required) or is this  a subtle but important indicator?

Common Parlance

I thought about why I had noticed that there was a missing reference or framework defined by KPIs, in the first place. Perhaps I had noticed a different ‘language’ being spoken within this team?

Every company has it’s own culture and some will be more cognisant of trends in KPIs than others. I realised I was looking for discussions would be anchored to a constant such as shared goals; that the dashboard or rather the reporting of data trends is not currently important in the team’s vernacular language, I observed that the progress cannot be celebrated, sense-checked or critiqued until major milestones are delivered or not, higher up the organisation.

The integrity or make-up of any defined data points can always be criticised, but ‘right or wrong’, we’re usually looking for trends and nothing is more helpful than a weekly trend line in retail, whether it’s in-store, online or in restaurant, to tell you what’s going on in the business.
New entrants to the team may or may not notice the conversation is driven around the KPIs, but it quickly becomes second nature for successful employees, when the numbers are visible.

I’ve often heard corporations described as ‘numbers obsessed’ (most of the fastest moving companies are, I might go so far as to say that a marketing team that isn’t talking about it’s achievements in numbers is losing or lost it’s way), but this is second nature to those working within the corporation, it is only observed by outsiders.


The importance of knowing the weekly trends in the marketing team, in my opinion, cannot be underestimated.

When I take the role of ‘scrum master’ for weekly marketing team ‘stand-ups’ or scrum meetings, I try to insist on a rather hard-line approach; it is a crime to turn up to a weekly meeting without having looked at the dashboard.

If there is no dashboard, ubiquitously available, on mobile devices, on walls, on desktop widgets, then it becomes easier for the team to excuse their lack of knowledge. Progress slows terrifically, even in the leanest, keenest start-ups.

Whilst we’re on the subject, I’ve seen some of the most data driven organisations in telecoms, retail, travel (often with less emphasis on their overall brand stability or Net Promoter Score) publish the dashboard on the walls of their offices.

I confess, I love this, because everyone in the organisation becomes cognisant of the KPI performance. The most passive of team members is ‘brainwashed’ – the opposite of having to make a conscious effort to discover the metrics in preparation for the weekly progress meetings.