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The Value of Keeping Score

The Value of Keeping Score

By: Phil Hardwick - July 28, 2023

Select the goals that are important to your organization, measure the things that will most influence the achievement of those goals, and report the goals to everyone concerned.

Is your team winning or losing? How do you know? Do you keep score? Keeping score, or measuring, is one key to accomplishing goals. 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, a popular productivity book by Sean Covey, Chris Murchison and Jim Huling, and now a popular Franklin Covey course, lists the following keys to successful goal execution: (1) Focus on the “wildly important” rather than on what is urgent, (2) Act on the “lead measures” (what is being done) rather than “lag measures” (what has been done), (3) Keep a “compelling” scoreboard, and (4) Create a “cadence” of accountability. 

Yes, keeping score and reporting is critical. Why? According to McChesney, “People and teams play differently when they are keeping score, and the right kind of scoreboards motivate the players to win.”

But it’s not just measuring in general and measuring important things. Sometimes it can be how you measure. A case study provides a good example.

Several years ago, a convenience store chain wanted to learn more about the effect of positive reinforcement by their managers on their employees. The company psychologist devised a way to test the idea. On Monday of each week a certain district manager, who was responsible for 12 stores, would call each of the stores and ask the store manager, “What were your sales last week?” The district manager was supposed to reply with a simple, “Thank you,” for six of the responses. 

On the appointed first Monday, the district manager called the stores. The typical response by the store managers was, “We sent that in with our weekly sales report last Friday.” The district manager replied that he was aware of that, but he was just following up. Grudgingly, many of the store managers provided the sales figures. The next week, the district manager called again and engaged in the same conversation. By the third week, the store managers had suspected that the district manager would be calling, so they had their sales figures ready. The district manager followed the protocol. By the fifth week, some of the store managers, especially those who had received positive reinforcement, were calling the district manager to report their sales. 

After only seven weeks, sales had increased by almost 15% in the stores that the district manager called and asked for the sales figures. The stores where positive reinforcement was given experienced an increase in sales of over 30%.

This project illustrated the value of positive reinforcement. It also revealed that merely asking for the sales figures – keeping score – resulted in an improvement in sales.

One of the state’s more successful community and economic development programs is the Mississippi Main Street Association. It does a lot of scorekeeping and measuring. And it makes the measurements public. Consider these numbers that were taken from its website:


  • 495 New Businesses
  • 56 Business Expansions
  • 841 New Jobs
  • 183 Façade Rehabs
  • 1817 Downtown Living Spaces
  • 24 New Construction Projects Completed
  • 79 Public Improvement Projects Completed
  • $160,031,068 Public Dollars Invested
  • $82,123,804 Private Dollars Invested
  • 42,255 Volunteer Hours

Note what Main Street is measuring. It could have measured a lot of things. However, it is measuring those things that it considers important to its mission and values. 

What are you measuring? 

Most businesses measure financial items. Nonprofits tend to measure people served. Cities measure sales tax revenues. What is measured is different for every organization. And they should relate those measurements to the goals of the organization. Many measurement deficiencies begin with ambiguous and undefined goals. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed.”

Now let’s consider some published goals. What’s the problem with these actual corporate goals (names withheld to protect the guilty):

  • “Our goal is to be a truly great energy business.” 
  • “Our goal is to provide our customers with the highest quality products and services at (the region’s) most competitive(sic) rates. We will continue to maintain high energy efficiency standards for our customers, and within our company, to reduce costs and help protect our environment.”   
  • “Our goal is to help you realize yours.” – A mortgage company.
  • “One goal at (the company) is to be among the most socially responsible food companies.”

Obviously, those goals are not very specific or measurable. One wonders how the companies above know when they have met their goals.

Now let us consider some goals that are a bit more specific:

  • “Increase EPS 10%-15% per year.” – FedEx Long-Term Goals
  • “By 2030, Mississippi will increase the postsecondary attainment of its workforce to 55%.” – Woodward Hines Education Foundation
  • “By 2028, The Home Depot Foundation plans to invest $50 million to train skilled tradespeople, including veterans, to help close the skilled labor gap.” – Home Depot
  • “We have a bold goal to double our Machinery, Energy and Transportation (ME&T) services sales to $28 billion by 2026 from our 2016 baseline.” – Caterpillar

In conclusion, select the goals that are important to your organization, measure the things that will most influence the achievement of those goals, and report the goals to everyone concerned. 

The results should make you proud.

About the Author(s)
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Phil Hardwick

Phil Hardwick is an award-winning business columnist and semi-retired economic developer. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Millsaps College Else School of Management for many years. He has taught over 1,000 students, written over 800 columns, written 11 books and assisted over 100 communities and organizations with strategic planning. In February 2016 he was inducted as a Lifetime Member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council.