Thursday, February 20, 2014


Frost & Sullivan, Innovation in New Product Development eBulletin, Vol. 6 Issue 3
Innovation Metrics: Measure Less to Improve More

  By Katherine Burns
  Director of Strategic Communications
  Frost & Sullivan

We’ve all been there: Those moments of, I can’t even see what’s important anymore, because it’s camouflaged among so many unimportant things. Perhaps most significantly, we’ve all had that moment of wanting to turn back the clock – to reverse the complexity. But how do you do that, when everyone has a different perspective on what should stay, and what should go, or whether anything should go at all?

I decided to explore this a few months ago, specifically how complexity ruins dashboards, confuses executives, and complicates performance tracking. As part of this journey, I found myself talking to the wonderfully creative Parker Hannifin. Parker Hannifin is a big, decentralized company that is comprised of 108 divisions, rolled up into eight groups, which report to the corporate center. Just across their innovation teams, the corporate center found itself tracking more than 50 metrics (which were all calculated or defined differently, depending on the division). Multiply 50 by 108, and you can see why their dashboard was the size of a phone book. (Again, if you invite the chaos, it will find you.)

Now, here’s the cool part: Some very smart people at Parker Hannifin rolled back those 50 innovation metrics to 4, which then enabled those smart people to see what was really important, without the distractions of the other 46 measures. With this simplicity came a greater level of insight and understanding than they had with a greater volume of data. Improved efficiency and profitability followed. They fought, rather than invited, complexity, and they won.

How Parker Hannifin did this is the subject of a recently published Best Practice Guidebook, which you can review in part here (if you’re a Growth Team Membership subscriber, you can get the whole thing here). If you are still interested, and feel like clicking on another link, click on this one! We recently hosted a webcast discussing Parker Hannifin’s experience in more detail, and one of those smart people from Parker Hannifin joined us for a lively Q&A. Bill Beane, Corporate Director of Winovation Systems, told us all just what it was like to simplify, and why Parker is sticking with it, and what they’ve all gotten out of it thus far.

In sum, Parker Hannifin taught me that complexity arises when we invite it, and more usually isn’t better – usually it’s just more. The more principled you can be in what you track, and how you track it, the better off you’ll be.

About the Author

Katherine is the Director of Strategic Communications for Growth Team Membership, a premier best practices research group within Frost & Sullivan. You can follow her on Twitter: @KatherineSBurns.

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