This week something a little different—a movie review. The movie is the 2011 drama Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt.
This movie is based on a true story. It’s the story of Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, a small major league baseball team with the third-lowest budget in the league.
Billy was tasked with winning the World Series against teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, which had many times this team’s budget.
Billy was smart enough to realise that competing against these vastly better-resourced teams on their own terms was never going to work. He needed a game changer. Literally.
When he met Peter Brand, an outspoken economist who believed that baseball could be played with a scientific methodology rather than the traditional ‘experience and gut feeling’ methodology, he took a chance—and won.
Here’s a short clip from early in the movie where these two men have just met:
And here’s another towards the end of the movie:
Ok, so why am I doing a movie review on a business blog?
I love this movie because it highlights the shortcomings of an approach that many business owners are still using to run their businesses. And, as Peter Brand puts it, these business owners are ‘asking the wrong questions’.
Never before has the business world undergone so much change in such a short period of time. We’re now seeing entire industries being routed or transformed, and others emerging in the blink of an eye.
The game has changed. While experience is still important, knowledge and understanding of the past is not always the best preparation for the future.
If you own or run a business, go and watch Moneyball and then reflect on how you play your chosen game.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that using KPIs to drive real improvements in business outcomes is a passion of mine. Metrics have always been important to me.
However, in the last few years in particular, I’ve been investigating how various organisations use KPIs (and when they don’t). I’ve also studied the behaviours and cultures around KPI usage, and strategies for their implementation. And I’ve seen some ineffective strategies around.
Looking at the entire sales chain
Quite often, I’ve seen businesses use metrics to measure targets, such as profitability, stock return rates and staff retention, without considering the metrics that might drive those outcomes.
To me, this shows a lack of understanding about how to develop effective business strategies—strategies that have structure and forethought likely to produce the intended income as opposed to just a measure of the result.
For example, the process of measuring sales outcomes is quite well defined. Yes, everybody looks at sales revenue and net profit. However, we analyse the entire sales chain.
Savvy managers also look at metrics such as the number of leads generated, conversion rates, time to close etc. By using this well-defined business process, professionals have learned to measure the metrics that drive the outcome, not just the outcome itself.
Unfortunately, I don’t always see this type of methodology used elsewhere.
How metrics drive your stock returns
Let’s look at another example—stock returns. Anyone who sells merchandise knows there’s a high cost associated with returned stock. In some industries, a single returned item might cost the organisation the equivalent margin of 10 or more sales!
So let’s think about the types of metrics that might drive a particular stock return level.
- the wrong products are being shipped
- the addresses are incorrect
- the products have a higher-than-expected failure rate
- the products aren’t meeting the customer’s expectations.
Depending on the product, dozens of factors could be driving a high or low return rate. Yet many organisations don’t monitor these metrics effectively enough to determine the core causes or, just as importantly, help them drive change.
Another example is staff retention rates. However, I’ve saved this one for next week’s article, so keep an eye out for it.
What’s your strategy?
If you want to improve your organisation’s performance, you need to start developing a strategy to improve it and, of course, measure it. Because any strategy without metrics is usually ineffective.
Just a few things for you to think about…