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Leading Measures Predict the Outcome

– and provide direction for proactive and effective intervention.

Early 2009 and I had only lived in Melbourne for a few months. We had tickets for the ‘Aussie Rules’ (AFL – Australian Football) preliminary final between the Cats and the Pies, being the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies, two big names in AFL.

On the massive pitch of the MCG or Melbourne Cricket Ground, I was stunned by the athleticism on display. Having never seen a live match, not even on TV, I watched how a couple of bald guys in (horizontal) blue and white striped singlets completely dominated the huge field. That day, Gary Ablett (pictured) and Paul Chapman won me over for the game of AFL, and I have been a Geelong supporter since. The score: 120-47.

Having shown interest in the AFL game, it was my new Aussie friends who piqued my interest in game stats, and how the leading measures early in the game were a very accurate predictor of the final outcome (score), or lagging measure.

In AFL you have 4 quarters, and good analytics of the stats of the first quarter are a good predictor of the end result. With the number of kicks, handballs, disposals, marks, hitouts, etcetera of your team versus the other team, the coaching staff could reasonably predict the outcome, regardless of the current score. The granularity of the game stats then allowed the coaching staff and the team to make the necessary adjustments for the following quarters in order to win the game.

Wanting to win the game is not enough; you need to adjust your actions on the field to winning activity for you to win. And losing the first quarter is not the end of the world. Learn from it, adjust your activity and come back better the next quarters, and still win the game.

It is no different in business. Wanting to be a market leader, wanting to have high profits, wanting to have high market capitalisation does not mean you will get it.

You need to identify the activities to get you there, define the leading measures to identify that you are on track towards your objective and practice PDCA (plan-do-check-adjust) at operational, systemic, and strategic level.

For an accounting firm, this could mean accurately recording and processing single-source-of-truth data, and following good process with all checks completed before filing tax documents. For a manufacturing firm, this could mean inspecting your raw materials, maintaining equipment in good working condition, and running your processes within pre-defined parameters or centre-lines. What is your game?

Performing a ‘specky’, when AFL players launch themselves off opponents’ backs high in the air to catch or ‘mark’ the ball, will get you cheers but alone won’t win the game. The leading activity of kicks, handballs, disposals, marks, hitouts will.

What is your game?

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People  

(photo courtesy of Fox Sport and Getty Images)