Creating a New Scoreboard

Athletic success goes beyond wins and losses, but few measuring tools exist beyond the record books. Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can help quantify department wins in a new way.

By Dr. Vincent Mumford and Dr. Vivian Fuller

Vincent Mumford, EdD, is an Assistant Professor of Sports Leadership at the University of Central Florida. Vivian Fuller, PhD, is the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Athletic Management, 14.5, August/September 2002,

In athletics, it’s easy to know which teams are winning. There are scoreboards, standings, and sports pages providing a plethora of information. But how do you know if your athletic department, as a whole, is winning?

It’s an important question to contemplate, because “How did the football team fare on Saturday?” is no longer the President’s or Principal’s only inquiry. They are demanding more accountability and want to know—in quantitative terms—if the athletic department is making a difference on campus. They want to see the numbers.

You may have the greatest vision and the most elaborate strategic plan known to mankind, but you also need some way to translate that vision and strategy into something measurable. You need to keep score—not just by tallying wins and losses, but by continually providing data that points to the bottom line and improved performance. You need to be able to show upper-level administrators your progress.

How to Measure
A good starting point for keeping score is to implement a system of key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs break your strategic plans into goals that are attainable and measurable and can be divided up among departments, workgroups, and individuals. They also allow supervisors to better assess if people are meeting department objectives.

There are four major steps involved in successfully implementing KPIs:

1. Develop plans for core strategic, operational, and capital activities.

If you have not done so already, develop a vision for your department and translate it into strategic plans. Here is a list of areas you may want to include:

• quality of student-athletes
• quality of coaches
• gender equity
• racial equity
• financial condition
• quality of facilities
• student-athlete welfare
• student-athlete academic progress

Many institutions also choose to make a comparison against other external organizations in formulating KPIs. Benchmarks can be other institutions within your conference, regional competitors, or local business organizations.

2. Break those plans into component parts and assign responsibility for each part.

For example, if part of your strategic plan is to increase revenue, you might decide to achieve this through fund-raising, increasing sponsorship dollars, and upping ticket sales. This next step requires you to break down each of these objectives into smaller goals. For example, you might translate the ticket sales objective into: increase football ticket sales to students by 10 percent.

From there, you need to hold one person accountable for that goal. This person will vary from school to school, but, in this example, it could be a director of promotions, the ticket manager, or an associate athletic director.

3. Set individual targets for each component.

The person responsible for completing the specific goal must then outline the means to reach it. He or she must plan what is to be done, by whom, when, and how, putting a deadline or some type of measurement on each component.

Even though one person is ultimately held accountable, a key part of developing KPIs is getting everyone involved. While the director of athletics should take the leadership role, associate directors can work with department managers to create appropriate measures. For example, if the assistant ticket manager will be partially responsible for increasing sales to students, he or she should help develop the specific goals and evaluation measures.

4. Design appropriate information systems to support the process.

To be most effective, KPIs need to be included and reviewed with your normal monthly reports. If possible, store and access the data from a management software system. For measures that are not as quantifiable, have department managers construct reports.

When relaying the monthly update, make the format fun. Not everyone likes looking through pages of numbers. Tailor the presentation format by using PowerPoint, graphs, or summary tables.

When monthly reviews are fun, they generate excitement, and people are more motivated to work toward the goals.

If you find monthly updates are not providing the information needed to assess your strategic plan, look closely at your KPIs. Maybe they need to be altered. Here are some typical measurement obstacles:

• unclear objectives
• reliance on informal feedback systems
• entrenched measurement systems
• activity without results
• fear of publicizing negative data.

KPIs are also great tools for annual salary reviews. High performance organizations have long identified the benefits of using an incentive-based salary system. Setting individual performance measures and monitoring the results against an agreed-upon outcome assists in this process.

For example, a development officer may be measured not just on the annual contributions generated, but also on the ticket sales generated taking into account donor priority points. These measurements are then linked to the person’s salary, thus making the performance review more objective and meaningful.

In a Snapshot
One of the key elements of KPIs is that they enable leaders to monitor and manage an organization using only snapshots, reducing the need to wade through pages of reports and numbers. But they do much more. They allow us to make predictions based on trend analysis. They provide focus for the entire organization on a broad set of measures. And they provide broader and more comprehensive data for decision-making.

As the leader, you must keep everyone aware of the score at all times. Keeping score helps an organization monitor its current performance. Keeping score also helps an organization improve processes, motivate and educate employees, enhance communication, and measure what is important.

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Sidebar: Effective KPIs

The best key performance indicators are:
• Objective and measurable
• Agreed upon by all parties
• Focused on the most important things
• Related to strategic goals
• Well communicated throughout the organization

They are a way to:
• Foster improvement
• Provide comparative and competitive data
• Reward and recognize good performance
• Focus on the long-term viability of the institution