Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Van Halen's "Executive Dashboard"

Back in the 1980's, the press highlighted the rock band Van Halen's contract stipulation that, before the show, there had to be a big bowl of M&Ms backstage–with all the brown ones removed.  It was chalked up to the indulgent, rock star ego but, in truth, it was a clever form of "executive dashboard."

As the band later explained, they were one of the first bands to put on highly complex concerts with pyrotechnics. If things were not set up properly, someone could get seriously hurt.  They needed a quick way to tell if the local management at the next venue had actually read through their large contract / operating manual, and set things up before they arrived.

So, they put a clause in the middle of the contract saying that they could cancel the show unless the bowl of M&Ms (sans the brown ones) were there.  Then, when the band arrived for the concert, they could simply look for the bowl.  If it wasn't there, or didn't have the brown ones removed, they knew that they better start checking other things.

Executive dashboards are important components of Strategic Simplicity®.

A well-designed indicator can alert leaders and managers to serious issues, without having to get involved in micromanaging.  They are a great tool for our Attention Scarcity Age, where everyone is cognitively overloaded while operating in complex, fast-changing situations.

© 2023 Praveen Puri