Many innovative tools are using simple grades to turn complex data into understanding, motivation and action. Many argue as to the validity of a single score showing anything meaningful, but many others believe it is one of the most effective ways to use data to help improve performance.
I have seen these basic grades used in all sort of industries with all sorts of data. I find the more complex the data involved the more valuable a simple grade is when it comes to sharing the data.
I think there are a few basic reasons why it makes sense to set grades
1. A’s are good and F’s are bad. No one misunderstands grades. Adding color helps interpretation even more – green is good and red is bad. Visually, troubled areas become very hard to miss and avoid.
2. A desire to understand means that communication will occur. This allows an explanation of what matters. How the grade is determined helps to show what matters.
3. Unless you have staff that just doesn’t care at all, most will respond to any grade with an interest to learn more about how it is set. Just sit in any class and listen to the students.
- Will this be on the test?
- How much does this test count
- How can I overcome a bad test?
They want to know what matters to the teacher, how the scores are valued and what to do if things go wrong. Pretty good stuff for any manager to have his team think about and work on.
4. A lack of change makes it easy to start a dialog with the ‘student’. Talking about the grade allows anyone to have an objective dialog about the situation. The awareness helps to find problems and focus the team on what matters.
Give it a try. You must have a set of numbers that you use. Have a discussion about what set of numbers indicates good performance and why. Watch the numbers for a few days, share the results with your staff and then see what happens.