An Organizational Magnifying Glass

Wayne W. Eckerson, the director of research at the Data Warehouse Institute and author of Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring and Managing Your Business (Wiley, 2006), tells the story of seeing his 11 year old son, Harry, and his friend, Jake, kneeling side by side in his driveway. As he walked over to inspect, he saw a puff of smoke come up between them. They each had a magnifying glass and were using it to set fire to dried grass and a few unfortunate ants who had wandered into their makeshift science experiment. In this boyhood rite of passage, Harry and Jake learned an important lesson that escapes the attention of many court managers: the power of focus.

Light normally radiates and diffuses all over the place, bouncing off objects on the earth surface. The boys discovered that if they focused the sun’s rays into a single point, they could generate enough energy to burn just about anything and keep themselves entertained for hours.

By the time they grow up, and maybe run a court, they probably will have forgotten the lesson. They may be steeped in a court culture that is without focus, dissipating energies far and wide. Most courts have multiple departments, units and divisions – each with their own processes, practices, and systems. They spin off in multiple directions without bringing resources and energies to a clear focus. Much of what they do conflicts and is not aligned with mission and strategic goals.

They need an “organizational magnifying glass,” suggests Eckerson, something that focuses the work of everyone in the court and ensures that everyone is going in the right direction. The preoccupations of effective leaders are clarity and focus, but hey need more than charisma and a strong message. They need a performance measurement system that focuses and magnifies what is most important. They need ready access to clear and actionable measures that allow them to explore the court’s performance from multiple perspectives and to steer the court in the right direction.

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