Actionable Information Only, Please!

We can manage what we measure … can’t we?

Most managers agree, at the very least under specific conditions (and I’m not referring to torture), to the adage that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. One of the mistakes we easily make is to assume that a double negative remains true when you make it a double positive. With other words, we then conclude–or maybe rather assume–that you can manage what you do measure.

Of course it doesn’t take very long to debunk that myth. If I’m in an aeroplane that has had both wings shot off, I can measure with precise accuracy the rate of my descent by simply watching the altimeter (although I seriously doubt that this would be what I would be doing at that moment), but there is very little I can do that you could classify as “managing the situation.”

Mikko’s Rule of Actionable Information

Enter Mikko’s Rule of Actionable Information[1], which states:

Only produce actionable information.

His reasoning is simple. Someone is taking the time and effort to prepare this information. If nothing is done thereafter, then that time and effort should have been spent doing something more useful than preparing information that will not lead to further action.

The word “actionable” contains the suffix “able.” So, actionable information is information which the person receiving can act upon. To be able to act upon something you need to be able to interpret the information, come up with an appropriate action plan, and have the ability to execute against that plan, in response to the information you have received. That also means you must have the available time, and access to the necessary resources.

You may give me a report against which I am able to improve the performance of a certain area in my business by taking action – but if the result of that improvement on my business results will be negligible, then I should rather be spending my limited time elsewhere. So although from a skills and potential perspective I can act on the information, from a time and resources perspective I cannot, and will not, and should not act upon the information.

The Mikko’s Rule Test:

Whenever a report is produced or requested, you can do the simple “actionable information” test by asking, and checking:

  1. Who will receive this information?
  2. Is it important enough that they actually are going to prioritise this and take action? If not. Stop.
  3. When they receive it, do they know how to accurately interpret it? If not: Explain it, make it clear. Make it simpler.
  4. Do they know what they should be doing about it, and how to do that? If not: Coach them in the right action to take in response to the information.
  5. Will they have the resources to go ahead and do what needs to be done? If not: Go back and confirm point 2 above. Is this really important enough? If it is, figure out how to either make the resources available, or adjust the actions to create improvement with the available resources.

Only when you’ve been able to get to a positive response on each of these, is it worth the time and effort to now start producing and sharing the information.

This simple approach reduces reporting noise and effort significantly, and in the process, it improves the impact of the reporting and response cycle massively.

To your success

Ashton

 

[1] Named after Mikko Hendriks who came up with this rule in 2016 during our Theory of Constraints implementations at Huisman China.

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