June 9, 2009 By Bill Bott
I used to work with a manager named Smitty who had a dartboard in his office. Smitty was fond of saying that there wasn't a management issue that couldn't be resolved over a good game of 301. If you heard the distinctive thud of darts hitting the old board, you knew Smitty was hard at work sharing his insights with younger employees, making budget decisions or debating the merit of new programs.
Darts was more than a pastime; for him, it was a style of management. Stand as close to the situation as possible, use your years of experience to gauge your shot, and throw into the general area. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, but you always have two more tries and you usually get close enough that the wall isn't covered in holes.
Even after years of working with Smitty, I always was frustrated that the difference between triple 20 and 2 was a metal bar thinner than your car key. Too often I was on the wrong side of that bar. If you are not a dart player, triple 20 is actually the bull's-eye. It's worth more than the red dot in the center in most games. Inexperienced players shoot for the middle, but you know you're around a dart player when they go after the triple 20. In IT management, it's like when application developers track the number of lines of code as a performance measure. Increasing the number of lines is not shooting for the real goal.
Performance management is more like artillery fire than darts and it's a better way to lead. With artillery, there are coordinates and weather factors you enter in, carefully aim, fire, and adjust the cannon to get to your mark with the next shot. It's a repeatable cycle proven to get results and remove some of the human error you get in things like darts.
In performance management the cycle is: Measure performance, set goals, make improvements to hit those goals and measure performance to see if you met them. Lather, rinse, repeat. The cycle serves as the basis for how improvement is made and should be in the DNA of a well managed organization.