Illuminating dashboard.

Author:Rock, Robert H.

In May, my wife Caro and I attended the Point-to-Point steeplechase At Winterthur Museum in Delaware. This annual event showcases exciting horse racing and exquisite horse-drawn carriages. One of the most beautiful carriages was driven by Herb Kohler, the patriarch of the eponymous wodd-renown plumbing business, whom Caro had met through her work as publisher of Family Business magazine. We admired Herb's elegant carriage which sported a protective barrier between his team of horses and his passengers. He referred to this wooden guard as a dashboard.

I am familiar with dashboards, but not in the context of horse-drawn carriages. To most people, a dashboard is an instrument panel with dials and displays that enable the driver to gauge the car's performance. As a director of several public and private boards, I am familiar with business intelligence (BI) dashboards that provide an at-a-glance view of key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales, cost-of-goods sold, and days receivable. These dashboards provide a progress report or scorecard displaying the status of KPIs and other metrics in an easy to understand format, often a visual representation in terms of pie charts, bar charts and graphs. A dashboard is often the most important tool for a board's oversight and control of corporate performance.

I assumed the business intelligence dashboard had derived from the automobile dashboard. I had not realized that the latter had derived from the wooden board (sometimes a leather apron) placed at the front of a carriage to protect the driver and his passengers from the mud and water thrown...

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