A80pxtree café conversation yesterday grew and grew.

It started with an innocent exchange around the signs of a good café.

(These are never turnover or profit, or size. Those so called key metrics tell us nothing we really want or need to know.)

So we all shared the clues we personally liked to use that signal, or short cut, what would take much longer to find out through experience. And of course, everyone goes through a similar process when starting work with any new client.
Why hadn’t we thought to ‘professionalise’ this before?

image00I’ll spare you the huge amount of reminiscing involved in generating some useful signals (and some of the stories were pretty incredible) and cut straight to a list for you to recognise, enjoy, and possibly use.  They might even replace those meretricious metrics about business performance that we are all being fed constantly – especially during this phony-data election time.

Here are a handful:

The splendor and comfort of Head Office will be in inverse proportion to the quality of conditions in which everyone else is working.  (I interviewed Directors at the The Co-operative, as part of a project, while watching the new huge, glistening and overweening HO building rising into the air through the window behind their heads. We know how that story ended.)

The bigger and glossier the pictures of people, or the outside world, on meeting room walls, the less actual contact with actual people in the outside world there will be.
(Big media companies, anyone?)

The more automated the visitor registration system, the greater the repetition and duplication of projects and work inside the company. (I’m not sure why either – could there be a link between visitors not speaking to each other and…..?)

The funkier the furnishings and environment, the less tolerant the culture will be of difference or dissent.
(It’s the ‘but look what we do for you’ pattern. Counter-intuitively, young companies are particularly prone to this)

The more frequent the staff satisfaction surveys, the lower the morale.
(I’ve always suspected that this is because the map begins to replace the territory in leaders’ minds. It’s such an easy trap to fall into.)

Shall we extend and develop this list?

A subject for another day is that of the language used by organisations and what that inadvertently reveals. Keep your ears open and do send me any gems that you find. It’s time to spread the use of real metrics that actually tell us something…

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