Accurate KPIs, Van Halen and brown sweets.

How do you know if you are looking at accurate KPIs, reports or dashboards? Perhaps we can learn a lesson from rock legends Van Halen. A copy of their 1982 tour rider makes for interesting reading. It’s 53 pages long and contains some very specific requirements, including:

  • Two dozen English muffins
  • Six bars of soap
  • Six gallons of milk
  • Choice of three salad dressings one of which must be low fat
  • Herring in sour cream (!?!?)
  • 1 bottle of Roses Lime Juice
  • 1 (one) large tube of KY Jelly

…and most curious of all…


(You can see scans of the original rider, including these items, here)

That last rider entry had a very special purpose. At first glance it may just look like  case of spoilt-brat rock stars throwing their weight around. But according to the band it was there for a very specific purpose; to instantly tell the band if the venue had read the rider properly. The rider contains lots about food and drink, but also crucial instructions on how security, lighting and other equipment should be set up. If the band walked in and saw there were brown M&Ms they knew there was a very real chance that the venue had not read the lighting, security and safety requirements either. It was like the mine canary that gave you an early and highly visible warning that things aren’t right.

Create your own ‘Brown M&Ms’ for accurate KPIs…

How can this help us tell if we have accurate KPIs, reports or dashboards? Think about including some ‘easily checkable’ measures in your dashboard or reports. It’s not a guarantee that the report, or other measures, are right or wrong, but if the ‘easy’ stuff is clearly wrong then it may prompt you to dig deeper into some of the more opaque metrics. Who knows what you might find or what kind of problems you might uncover?



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