Dashboards are critical for a successful continual improvement effort. Effective dashboards can drive better coaching, faster team meetings, and more effective problem-solving. A common problem that interferes with the effectiveness of dashboards, however, is the inclusion of charts that attempt to convey too much information and are difficult to understand. One way to prevent this problem is to make sure that all charts on a dashboard comply with the 3-meter rule.
Simply stated, the 3-meter rule means that a chart should clearly convey its message from a distance of 3 meters. When looking at a chart, if you need to move close or ask for explanations to understand the information displayed, you can assume that the chart is in need of improvement.
Dashboards should drive conversations around closing gaps between current and targeted performance. To make sure the conversations are focused and effective, however, they should be centered around data. When the problem or breakdown is not clear, people will spend time attempting to understand the intention of the chart rather than addressing the problems shown by the data.
Besides helping focus the discussion on problem-solving, a chart that meets the 3-meter rule enables more people to be involved in the conversation. The closer someone needs to be to understand a chart, the fewer people who are able to see the information and participate in addressing the problem. Minds wander and separate discussions begin to happen, which negatively impacts the effort.
Creating charts that are easy to understand from a distance of 3 meters sometimes requires significant reflection and effort, but the investing time upfront can greatly aid the improvement process by making objectives clear and the problems that interfere with meeting the objectives visible.