Think about the last time you were behind the wheel of a car. Maybe the radio was on. Maybe you had your GPS directing you around traffic. Maybe you had some passengers. Or maybe you were alone.

No matter which of these variables were true for you, I bet your eyes were focused on the road straight ahead of you for the majority of your trip. You probably glanced down at your dashboard every now and again to check your speed or make sure you had enough gas for your trip, but your eyes probably didn't leave the road for more than a second or two.

The same should be true in driving your business. Here's what I mean:

How your "business dashboard" helps you

Most corporate dashboards provide feedback on what happened and what is happening. They often include metrics that are tied to the company's financial and/or business plan, including things like monthly sales, profit margin, hours worked, resources used, milestones met, and tasks completed. They show how the company is doing based on things that happened the previous month or quarter.

A business dashboard can give you the following advantages:

  • Shows "actuals" from the past compared to plan.
  • Prompts the question, "Why did these gaps from plan happen?"
  • More about learning from the past.
  • Helps to understand why problems happened.

These dashboards are valuable because they help you know what actually happened and compare that to what you planned. Spending time looking at these dashboards is important for any business leader, but only if it's commensurate with the amount of driving time you spend scanning the dashboard of your car.

How your "business windshield" helps you

The place to spend most of your time when running a business is looking out the windshield. Through the windshield, you look down the road toward the vision and strategy for your company.

Looking through the windshield means using projections to identify what you think is going to happen based on your current path. The projections then help you determine how your company will do if you keep doing what you're doing. Not happy with what you see? You can use this data to figure out what actions you need to take to change course and meet your goals.

A business windshield can help you in these four ways:

  • Shows "projections" in the future compared to plan.
  • Prompts the question, "What can we do now to eliminate the gaps between what is projected and what we had planned?"
  • More about doing to improve the future.
  • Helps to avoid problems.

Looking at the dashboard, you'll see what actually happened in the past compared to what was planned, which prompts the question, "Why the gap?" Through the windshield, you'll see what you and your team think is projected to actually happen. You can compare that to the plan and ask, "What can we do now to close the gap between projections and plan?"

How to identify the right strategy for you

Peak performing leaders and organizations look through the windshield to see progress towards their clearly stated intentions, goals, and objectives. They process what they are seeing and make adjustments in real time, persisting variously, to eliminate gaps and risks. By doing so, they demonstrate to all that they value integrity and that they will do whatever it takes to fulfill their intentions.

Here are some questions to consider as you go through the next few days:

  • In what orientation do you spend most of your time -- looking at the dashboard or looking through the windshield?
  • How many times are you asking, "What happened?" or "What is happening?"
  • How many times are you asking, "What is supposed to happen next and is that going to happen? If not, how do eliminate the gap?"

Drive your business like you drive your car. Scan your dashboard every now and then, but keep your eyes looking through your windshield and make those adjustments to realize your plans, goals, and intentions.