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Can You See Your Business?

What’s the ‘thing’ that really sets you and your employees into action? When “X” happens, we go to work… For an employee at the machine, it’s usually something like “When the cutlist is put on my clipboard, I cut it out”, which is pretty simple. What about you, though? How do you know what to do and when to do it? What is ‘it’ that makes you act? Does the person on the other end of the phone determine your day? Is it that quickbooks report that you glance at once a month? 

You are in your position as an owner or a top manager because you intuitively know what to do, and when to do it. You’ve been able to sense what was next. If you’re not already there, you will eventually get to the point where you’ve done such a good job at improving your operation, that you’ll need to use more precision tools to get to the next level. For an obvious woodworking parallel: At some point in your production process, it’s time to pull out the finish sand paper, because all the planeing, routing, and assembly has been done, and it’s those final details that seem to have the greatest impact.

To really see your business, you need a fine tool that puts the data in front of your eyes in a (simple) way that you can process it and use it as a springboard into action. This tool needs to reflect your business accurately and do it in real time. Even if you think your business is simple, a great deal of information is constantly flowing and changing (notes, memos, numbers, reports, production, scheduling, payments, inventory, cash flow, etc.). You need a tool that combines the most important data into one easy to read, easy to understand, “living” visual dashboard. 

Visual Dashboards

Visual dashboards are organized graphical displays of primary facts, figures, numbers, and charts that are crucial for management and employee operations. Key performance metrics (KPI’s) are the points of data that are critical to measure and are represented in large emphasis on your dashboards. The dashboard below represents an example:

Click to see a larger version of the image

Using a dashboard allows both managers and employees to better understand what is happening and what needs to happen. Implementing a visual dashboard leads to improved decision making and overall efficiency throughout the organization.  

Gathering data

By giving the dashboard access to your operational software, it will automatically pull information and display it in real time. Dashboards understand the data and can therefore calculate a variety of information for display. For example, by giving a dashboard access to your accounting system and financial information, it will be able to calculate current earnings, expenditures, and current cash balances. 


After information has been gathered and organized, the dashboard will display the information on a screen, usually right at the point it needs to be consumed (shop floor, for example). With most visual dashboards, you can choose which type of displays to represent each piece of information. You might prefer a mixture of numbers, graphs, and charts. Matching the right type of display to the right piece of information will increase the efficiency of using a dashboard.

Understanding & Improvement

Once you have your dashboard up and running, use it to take action. Graphs and charts can show you where to focus next. Remember, the information displayed on the screen is the outcome of everything put together. So even small changes in specific areas can be seen on the dashboard. By tracking these changes, you can pinpoint problems and implement solutions. As you continue to make improvements, your numbers will point up and so will the future.

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