The difference between first and everyone else at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is so slim that even the tiniest of adjustments can make the difference. In fact, the difference between the qualifying run for this year’s winner of the pole position, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power who starts in the second position was .392 miles per hour. The qualifying run is 10 miles, so that difference translates to total time difference to run those 10 miles of just .27 of a second. The difference between the time it took to cover 10 miles for a great qualifying run and the coveted pole position and a horrible run ending in qualifying in the 33rd and last spot was just 3.622 seconds.
How do the best teams eke out these precious tenths of seconds? A walk along the lanes' pits gives some insight into this question. All the teams are equipped with telemetry stations that allow instant feedback from the cars and drivers to be analyzed. The better teams have clearly more sophisticated telemetry. The teams that outperform are collecting and analyzing more measures and more sophisticated measures. They are also focused on the measures that are relevant to achieving their goal—making the car go faster in the conditions under which they are driving. More sophisticated and relevant measures, more speed.
Along the pits you will also see the teams focusing their attention on the measures and how to react to what the measures are telling them. The teams that develop and execute strategies that are very focused on the relevant measures, and are responsive to the current state of the measures will find more speed. The teams that take a more random approach, and try anything and everything are likely to struggle to qualify fast. More responsive and focused strategies, more speed.
Our businesses are no different. We need to develop metrics that are sophisticated and relevant. Measuring complex relationships with simplified metrics will give you a score, but likely not more performance. Developing strategies that are frequently changing and not responsive to the right measures is, at best, inefficient. And, it might be harmful. To succeed and outperform our competitors, we must put in place the right measures—sophisticated and relevant—and adopt strategies that are focused and responsive to those measures. That’s the way we will hit our goals.