Lesson 19, Topic 8
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UPG Team March 17, 2023
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Dashboards are a critical tool for any organization, but they are especially essential for Exponential Organizations (ExOs). ExOs are companies that are built to leverage new technologies, platforms, and business models to achieve rapid growth and massive scale. Because ExOs are designed to operate in a rapidly changing environment, they require near real-time data and metrics to monitor and evaluate their performance.

In this Module, we will explore the importance of dashboards for ExOs, the different types of dashboards, and the characteristics of good (OKR-based) dashboards. We will also look at the story of Amazon and how they use dashboards to monitor the outcomes of experiments and make critical business decisions.

Engagement metrics are used for measuring ExOs externally, and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are critical for internal team and organizational execution. Dashboards are the internal and external presentations of real-time information that organizations need to run their businesses. They reflect essential company and employee metrics and allow for short feedback loops to be implemented. The phrase “what gets measured gets managed” is made manifest with Dashboards.

For ExOs, where growth is rapid, dashboards are essential because they enable management decision-making to keep pace with the extreme rate of change. OKRs are a performance management system that ExOs use to ensure that teams and individuals set ambitious goals and track measurable progress toward those goals. They also align the entire enterprise on the path to that goal.

There are two types of dashboards: external-facing and internal-facing. External-facing dashboards are typically engagement metrics for early-stage companies and dollar metrics for mature companies. These dashboards use “leaderboards” to drive community behavior and engagement. For example, Peloton created community competitions showing how users are doing against their friends. All digital gaming platforms are external-facing dashboards.

Internal-facing dashboards are exemplified by OKRs, which are a collaborative goal-setting methodology. They are used by teams and individuals to set ambitious goals while still being able to track measurable progress toward those goals. OKRs also align the entire enterprise on the path to that goal. Interestingly, OKRs can be used with almost any type of company operation, from office to lab, and at any level in the organization.

Characteristics of good (OKR-based) dashboards include continuous asking of “where do I want to go?” (Objective) and “how will I know I’m getting there?” (Key Results). OKRs are not determined top-down but bottom-up. Objectives are the dream, and Key Results are the success criteria of that dream. Objectives are qualitative, and Key Results are quantitative. OKRs are not the same as employee evaluations, but rather they are about the company’s goals and how each employee contributes to those goals. Dashboards can act as a lever to increase the alignment of the organization.

Most software, such as SAP or Salesforce, needs a separate dashboard on top to capture the best insights and to integrate data from various company management programs. Instrumenting early and often is key to implementing dashboards. If you cannot measure it, you cannot impact or manage it. Dashboards are key for the transparency and alignment of autonomous teams.

Connected sensors (IoT) is an important enabling trend to roll out dashboards to more traditional processes. Seventy percent of the world’s sensors are currently not networked, so they are wasted. Traditional business reports cover what happened, whereas dashboards cover what is happening in real-time.

The story of Amazon illustrates how dashboards can be used to monitor the outcomes of experiments and make critical business decisions. Amazon uses a dashboard to generate a weekly business report that company leaders spend many hours analyzing for the surprises it may reveal. The report shows every imaginable metric regarding the company, with the most important and challenging changes bannered at the top of the page. These could include changes in customer behavior, fluctuations in sales, or shifts in product popularity. By keeping a close eye on these metrics, Amazon is able to quickly identify trends and adjust its business strategies accordingly.

Another example of dashboards in action is in the world of healthcare. Hospitals and healthcare providers use dashboards to track patient outcomes, medication usage, and other key metrics to ensure that they are providing the highest quality care possible. For example, a hospital may use a dashboard to monitor the number of patients who develop infections after surgery. If the number exceeds a certain threshold, hospital staff can quickly identify the cause and take corrective action to prevent further infections.

Dashboards can also be used to track progress towards specific goals or objectives. For example, a marketing team may use a dashboard to monitor the effectiveness of different advertising campaigns. By tracking metrics such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and customer engagement, the team can identify which campaigns are most effective and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Overall, dashboards are a powerful tool for businesses and organizations of all sizes. By providing real-time data and insights, they allow decision-makers to quickly identify trends and make informed decisions. Whether you are running a large corporation or a small startup, implementing a dashboard can help you stay on top of key metrics and achieve your business goals.

Dashboards have become an increasingly important tool for organizations to track and manage their performance metrics. They provide a real-time snapshot of the critical growth drivers, allowing companies to monitor progress against their key performance indicators (KPIs) and course correct when necessary. Dashboards allow organizations to align their teams around common goals, experiment with new initiatives, and minimize exposure to errors with short feedback loops.

However, creating a dashboard that delivers valuable insights and drives positive change is not without its challenges. One major challenge is determining which metrics to track. It’s important to avoid tracking too many metrics as this can result in a glut of superfluous data. Additionally, it’s critical to focus on real value metrics like repeat usage, retention percentage, monetization, and Net Promoter Score (NPS) rather than vanity metrics like visitors or app downloads.

Another challenge is ensuring the validity of the numbers being tracked. Companies must be able to rely on the data being collected and avoid the risk of inaccurate data leading to faulty decision-making. It’s also essential to have real-time up-to-date data to populate the dashboard and to frequently go back and update the dashboard, especially if data collection and visualization are not fully automated yet.

Corporate culture can also present a significant challenge when implementing dashboards. It’s essential to get employees to accept the presence of dashboards and to use them wisely. Additionally, uncomfortable data must be dealt with effectively, and the company’s relationship with its OKRs must be managed ruthlessly for a dashboard to be successful.

OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, are another critical component of organizational management. OKRs provide a control framework to manage fast growth and ensure that organizations are on track to meet their goals. They require cultural acceptance by employees and an appreciation of OKRs at the individual, team, and organizational levels.

Robert Goldberg, a business thinker and investor, has implemented OKRs into more than 40 companies with considerable success. He believes that OKRs are the operating system for a company and can help even the most hidebound and traditional companies break away from their normal operations.

In terms of case studies, there are many companies that have successfully implemented dashboards and OKRs to improve their organizational management. Clickup is a cloud-based collaboration and project management tool that serves as a top dashboard for the company. Klipfolio is a Canadian cloud-based dashboard company that enables users to build real-time business dashboards. Tableau specializes in visualization techniques for exploring and analyzing relational databases and data cubes.

On the other hand, WeWork provides an example of the dangers of hyper-scaling a business before getting the unit metrics right. Their dashboards didn’t highlight this important issue, and they scaled their losses in their global quest for growth. The Trading Desk, a US-based multinational company, offers a self-service publishing platform for brands and advertisers as well as a platform for advanced analytics. eHang, a Chinese company, manages the world’s autonomous urban mobility, particularly electric passenger-grade aerial vehicles.

Lastly, quantified self dashboards enable users to link together various dashboards in their life to provide a holistic and empirical look at their overall health and life status. Strava is a US-based service that tracks physical exercise, mostly used for cycling and running, using GPS data and the integration between different systems such as Garmin and Fitbit. TensorBoard is a common dashboard in machine learning for monitoring training progress and improving model performance, while Weight & Biases adds experiment tracking, dataset versioning, and model management services.

In conclusion, dashboards and OKRs are critical components of organizational management. While they can provide many benefits, there are also challenges that must be overcome for them to be effective. Organizations must carefully design their dashboards and OKRs to ensure that they align with their overall strategy and goals. This requires a deep understanding of the organization’s objectives, priorities, and metrics, as well as the ability to communicate them effectively throughout the organization.

One of the biggest challenges in implementing dashboards and OKRs is getting buy-in from all stakeholders. It is crucial to involve key stakeholders in the design process and ensure that they understand the rationale behind the metrics and goals being tracked. This can help to build trust and accountability, and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objectives.

Another challenge is ensuring that the data being used to populate the dashboard is accurate and up-to-date. Organizations must have robust data governance and management processes in place to ensure data quality and integrity. This includes defining data ownership, establishing data standards, and implementing regular data audits.

Additionally, organizations must ensure that their dashboards and OKRs are actionable. It is not enough to simply measure performance – organizations must also take action based on the insights gained from the data. This requires a culture of continuous improvement and a willingness to make changes based on data-driven insights.

Finally, organizations must be prepared to adapt their dashboards and OKRs as the business environment changes. This means regularly reviewing and updating metrics and goals, and ensuring that they remain aligned with the organization’s overall strategy. Overall, dashboards and OKRs can be powerful tools for organizational management, but they require careful planning, implementation, and ongoing management to be effective. By overcoming the challenges associated with these tools, organizations can drive better performance, improve decision-making, and achieve their strategic goals.

Module is complete, keep up the great work change maker!

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