Frank Buytendijk: passion makes performance indicators

May 8, 2009
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Performance comes from Venus, says Frank Buytendijk, and managers comes from Mars. Frank himself flew from the Netherlands to show — in the best TDWI keynote I’ve ever heard — how BI can improve performance.

First, about the show: In his Monday morning presentation at the TDWI conference in Chicago, he used just two slides. His red shoelaces, against his all-black outfit, were more visible than PowerPoint. Instead, he told good stories — and the audience was rapt.

He told about how he discovered jogging, thanks to his personal version of a “perfect” BI tool — which is one that people actually use. It’s a Nike chip he puts in his shoe that tracks his distance and time.

His new 10 kilometers-a-day jogging habit had been well established when one morning he came home early. His wife asked, “Is it raining?” No, his battery had run down, and without the data, there was no point to jogging.

The data had become a motivator. He said, “It’s perfect because it makes the boring exciting.”

He also ran through a red light — and paid a 35-euro fine — because stopping would have ruined his average. A show of hands in the audience confirmed his normalcy…

Performance comes from Venus, says Frank Buytendijk, and managers comes from Mars. Frank himself flew from the Netherlands to show — in the best TDWI keynote I’ve ever heard — how BI can improve performance.

First, about the show: In his Monday morning presentation at the TDWI conference in Chicago, he used just two slides. His red shoelaces, against his all-black outfit, were more visible than PowerPoint. Instead, he told good stories — and the audience was rapt.

He told about how he discovered jogging, thanks to his personal version of a “perfect” BI tool — which is one that people actually use. It’s a Nike chip he puts in his shoe that tracks his distance and time.

His new 10 kilometers-a-day jogging habit had been well established when one morning he came home early. His wife asked, “Is it raining?” No, his battery had run down, and without the data, there was no point to jogging.

The data had become a motivator. He said, “It’s perfect because it makes the boring exciting.”

He also ran through a red light — and paid a 35-euro fine — because stopping would have ruined his average. A show of hands in the audience confirmed his normalcy.

People want to do as well as they can. Why do managers so often fail to encourage better performance? Buytendijk traces the failure to a few mistakes.

First, most managers take a top-down approach to performance management, he said. They don’t ask what effect their policies may have, and they’re surprised at the bad effects. They’ve also pushed accountability a little too far, stressing system goals at the expense of higher, big-picture goals. And they’ve forgotten what really drives performance: passion. Performance is “a matter of the heart,” he said.

We have to understand the ultimate value an organization delivers. What works better is to strive for a higher, inspiring value that people believe in.

Here he rejoined what most people recognize as business intelligence. Best performance requires aiming at the correct target. That leads to indicators that join personal passion with corporate goals. “With the right indicators,” he said, “we can change the behavior of both.”

Read his book, Performance Leadership: The Next Practices to Motivate Your People, Align Stakeholders, and Lead Your Industry (2008; McGraw-Hill).

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