Dramatic improvements in performance are possible. It’s just that it’s so hard to make them possible while driving forward with current initiatives. Complex trade-offs are often handled in a hurry with inadequate data to support the decision because time pressure demands a fast decision. Crisis conditions make all that even harder to handle.

What would you do if you had a few weeks off to work out how to handle things better? Probably the answer would be – let’s get some decent feedback in place that I can trust and is simple to understand and communicate. I’d like a dashboard for my top indicators and be able to drill down when I need; I’d like to think my reports are even faster onto exceptions than I am so I don’t have to micro manage them. I also want to see a scorecard or two to help review the longer term performance issues.

So you get them but…are you monitoring the really crucial parts of your business and are the ‘levers’ are you got able to do much to correct matters? Look at the poor central bankers – at zero interest they’ve lost their most powerful tool and can hardly control anything except by allowing the money supply to grow – and some of these levers don’t seem to work the way they were supposed to (employees have been changing their approach to work, apparently).

What might help is a set of tools which help understand the real system and which work in the way the system works. Once those are there, it may turn out that the KPIs you’ve been using are the right ones or that the ‘levers’ you thought were working one way actually had quite different effects to the ones intended. Just being able to ‘play’ with these policies, targets and compensation mechanisms already gets you ahead and can the give you and your team far greater insight into what might and might not work when the world throws another wobbly in your direction. Fire drills don’t stop fires but they do reduce the numbers of lives lost when they do occur.