Focusing On Right Measures

Imagine you are sitting in the control room of a television studio, directing your first TV show.
In front of you are 10 different screens all showing different things. Some are live-camera shots, some are graphics or cued commercials. One is the live TV show you are in the process of shooting. Which monitor do you think would draw most of your attention?

If you answered the one showing the live show, you would be correct. Every one of the new team leaders I have trained over the years watches the live TV screen more than any other monitor.

Second question: Which screen should you be watching more than any other? Perhaps surprisingly, the correct answer is not the one showing the current show. You should be watching the screen of the camera angle you are going to show next, as we say, the shot you are going to “cut to.”

Sound odd? Isn’t it best to watch the output of the show to make sure it is going well and has the quality you need? Makes sense, but in reality, no. By the time that shot is up on the live TV feed it is practically too late for you to do anything about it. It’s live. You may want to put about 10 percent of your attention on the live feed to make sure nothing disastrous is happening on-air. But that shot is the outcome of your process. It’s essentially out the door.

New team leaders are surprised to learn that it’s the shot they are about to put on the air that should demand most of their attention. The upcoming shot is the one they can improve, and therefore, use to increase the (immediate future) quality of the show.

Similarly, without leadership experience, many of us think the output of the team is the most important thing to focus on. But nearly all leadership training makes a distinction between “lead” and “lag” measures. As part of the “Lights! Camera! Action!” leadership training I provide, this difference is fundamental to the second part of the training: “Camera!” Where should a new team leader focus his attention? What should be measured and how should feedback be given?

To start, “lag” measures are what (non-leader) team members instinctively think of as the most important measures. They are the outcome measures. They “lag” the efforts of the team and are the products that go out the door. Lag measures are usually obvious. They are articulated in team goals, rewarded by performance measures and observable to nearly everyone.

“Lead” measures, on the other hand, are arguably more important. Lead measures are the intermediate outcomes that “lead up to” the lag measures. If done well, they logically and causally lead to good (lagged) outcomes. Notably, they are usually not observable to outsiders, or perhaps to other team members. But they are still under the team’s control.

For example, if you are running a restaurant, you want your food and personnel costs low. This will lead to greater profits (an outcome/lag measure). In a factory, minimizing production time and inventory costs will lead to greater productivity or costs per unit. Eventually, these will lead to greater profits. In a TV control room, focusing attention on the shots that are about to appear on camera will lead to a better show on the air.

Team members promoted to new leadership positions usually aren’t aware they need to shift their attention and focus their leadership camera on these lead measures. Frequently, they don’t even know what they are. Thus, the “Camera!” work of developing leadership talent is to break down the team process and discover, define, record and report the intermediate measures that lead to team success.

I’ve mentored hundreds of students through their first TV experiences and I’ve discovered it is possible to break the natural habit of watching the “lag” measure. But it doesn’t come easy. Breaking our preconceptions can be hard, particularly if that habit is something so well-learned in Americans. Namely, watching TV.

This article appeared in the Indiana Gazette on Aug. 19, 2012 at

Leave a Reply