No Dashboard Is Better Than a Wrong One

What’s worse: Driving a car with no gas gauge or driving one with a gauge that’s incorrect?

The answer is obviously driving a car with an incorrect gas gauge is far worse. When there is no gas gauge or one you know does not work, you know not to trust it. You fill up more frequently without even looking at the gauge. But when you think a gauge is right and it is really wrong, that is when you are likely to end up on the side of the road calling for help.

Multiple times in leadership I have seen the struggles that an incorrect dashboard creates. Here are 3 reasons why an incorrect dashboard is worse than no dashboard:

1. An incorrect dashboard creates more confusion than no dashboard.

A speaker has a countdown timer that is in error. She knows it is wrong and frantically searches for a clock as she speaks so she can do the math in her head, while still speaking, to try and determine how much time she actually has left to deliver the message. She gets off the platform and sighs because she felt distracted the entire time she spoke. She wishes she had just asked for the big countdown clock to be turned off.

2. An incorrect dashboard wastes more time than no dashboard.

A team gathers together for a meeting and spends hours building a strategy to respond to data they are seeing (it could be a percentage of people in small groups, the number of attendees serving, or some other metric). They later find out that they built a strategy in response to an inaccurate viewpoint. They all wonder, “The report was not accurate, so how sound is our strategy?”

3. An incorrect dashboard leads to bad decisions more than no dashboard.

A leader brings some incorrect or incomplete information to a meeting, and the information is used in financial decision-making (more staff, more resources, etc.). Later it is discovered that the view lacked objectivity and the decisions that were made were not made looking at reality.

Implication: Leaders, fewer dashboards and fewer reports are better. They prevent paralysis and increase accuracy. The more dashboards and the more reports, the more likely energy is diffused and time is wasted while both creating and reading the reports.