Scoreboards for Driving Effort

scoreboards-article-pic_tinyKey takeaway – Sports scoreboards are the benchmark for information sharing that drives behavior. Employers can improve performance by using a scoreboard as well.

Tell employees what management is monitoring, and they will tell you what is important to the business. Information drives behavior. It must be timely, accurate and relevant. Performance data should be displayed in a way that commands attention.

Sports scoreboards grab attention and drive the behavior at any sporting event. Fans and team members watch the scoreboard intensely. It has all the information that is relevant to the game, listing the available time and score. Beyond what’s happening on the playing field, the scoreboard is the focus of attention at any sporting event. The board creates a sense of urgency and dynamic tension as teams race the clock and drive up their points. Remove the scoreboard, and you no longer have a game, you have practice.


Example from Philips Mexico

Around 2004 I visited some factories in Mexico as part of a best practice sharing event. We toured a consumer electronics factory and could not help but notice large electronic scoreboards over each assembly line. Even though we did not know anything about their operation, we understood their performance.

Each scoreboard was designed to look like a sports scoreboard. The information displayed reflected:

  • Production goal VS actual production
  • Scrap levels and downtime
  • On schedule (Displaying if the line was behind or ahead of schedule)

The color of the numbers also reflected performance.

  • Green numbers meant within target range
  • Yellow said numbers were trending in the wrong direction
  • Red meant goals were not being met

Although the factory was quite large, these boards grabbed our attention immediately. This is what we want with all performance related data. It would have been difficult to ignore this information.

Within a few years, our Philips factory in Kansas had scoreboards displayed near each production line. We noticed an improvement in production and a reduction in downtime and scrap as we became more visible with performance information.



We followed this same scoreboard approach to improve safety. For our safety scoreboard, we used traffic lights. We set up three safety bulletin boards in our factory, relating critical safety information. The boards stated our safety targets and where we were concerning them.

The main focal point of each safety board was a traffic light.

  • Green meant we had no accidents over the last 24 hours
  • Yellow meant we had at least one accident in the last 24 hours, but it was minor
  • Red meant we had an OSHA recordable accident in the last 24 hours

Our safety boards were in high traffic areas. In our main parking lot, we had a full-size traffic light displaying our current safety status. Employing this type of safety performance visibility helped us achieve a 50% reduction in OSHA recordable accidents in 2009.



To gamify means giving game-like structure or qualities to a non-game activity. You can gamify anything. Your imagination is your only limitation. The activity only needs goals, structure and a type of reward. The numbers themselves will act as a reward when they reflect improvement from effort.

We tend to be competitive by nature. We like winning at set goals. When we accomplish tasks that move us forward, our brain gives us a shot of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is a reward that encourages us to keep moving forward, to repeat the behavior.

When we “gamify” an activity we take advantage of our competitive nature. We set goals (short term/long term) and develop plans to achieve them. The goals and progress must be visible to keep us focused on the game. A well-placed scoreboard helps with this. We can slip into complacency quickly and lose our sense of urgency. We need our head in the game and eyes on the score.

Our effort is rewarded as we see performance scores go up. Like the score on a pinball machine, we enjoy seeing improved scores from our effort. This creates an automated reward system. Managers still need to reward employees for a job well done, but this becomes secondary to the cause and effect created by a good scoreboard. We can see our accomplishment and so can others.


Online Dashboards and Going Mobile

If a stationary scoreboard is not practical due to the nature of your business, such as with construction, landscaping or sales, you may want to consider online dashboards or going mobile. The scoreboard components that drive behavior can be shared online and be accessible with a mobile device. Mobile devices with alerts grab our attention and keep us in the game. They go where we are and can let us know when progress is made or lost.

The goal is to be as proactive as possible with key performance indicators (KPIs). We are continually validating how effort affects outcome. We need this information to be real time when possible. Electronic forms and mobile devices drive behavior and improve most data related activities. Success rarely happens without data driving efforts. We need to see where we are and where we need to be.


Scoreboards = Recognition

Make key information as timely and visible as possible. Let human nature do the rest. We are all more resourceful than we think. We need a goal, a plan, and timely feedback for our efforts.

Give your employees the information they need to succeed. Create business scoreboards to display performance on ALL set goals. Let our competitive nature drive performance. It is hard to be complacent when we see how our effort moves us toward set goals. When your employees go home at the end of the day knowing they made a positive difference, and their contribution was noticed, you can be confident they will stay engaged and feel valued.