I know it's not football season and there may be people in New England who don't want to talk about it, but here's a headline and subhead to consider:

Greg Brooks Last-Minute Rally Lifts New York to Super Bowl Upset! Giants: Just enough points. Patriots: Not quite as many.

Little bit of a letdown, isn't it? Even if you're not interested in football, it's the score that makes the story, and the same goes for your business. The problem is that the rules aren't as clear-cut.

For example, I saw Ruth Kellick-Grubbs's presentation at last year's NLBMDA Summit on the importance of measuring OTIFs-on-time, in-full deliveries (click here) ProSales, August 2007). Ruth's right. In a business where service is the only differentiator and everyone claims excellence, not knowing how closely your walk matches your talk is like leaving the front gate open at night: It may not get you in trouble the first night, but sooner or later it will and you won't know it until after the damage is done.

So I was a little surprised when Ruth asked the audience of 100-odd dealers how many track OTIFs and only three hands went up. I'd have thought I was in a room full of beanbags except that I knew a lot of the people and knew there were some very successful operations represented.

You never heard of a dealer measuring OTIFs 30 years ago; it was too labor-intensive. When I was on the counter, we just asked our drivers to write the time of delivery on invoices so we'd have something to go on in a dispute. They did it faithfully. Orders went out complete and correct because the dispatcher made sure of it, and he let us know about any breakdowns on the spot (and at maximum volume if we were to blame). The only glue holding the whole thing together was our sense of professionalism. We all hated to drop the ball-and the owners knew it.

Some say that ethic doesn't exist in today's workforce. I don't believe it for two reasons. First, I've seen yards running like clockwork with no performance measurements while others are in disarray with reams of data to prove it. Second, it isn't as if beanbags were just invented. I once had a foreman whose favorite joke was to call you to the warehouse to "show you something." What he wanted to show you was that he could toss a lighted match into a half-full five-gallon can of gasoline and the gas would extinguish the flame before it ignited the fumes.

Science isn't my strong suit but I learned something about sports that day: Anyone can run a 30-yard dash in 4.4 seconds if they are motivated enough.

Motivation reduces the need for measurement, but measurement can be a motivator if you use it that way. Years ago, I knew a dealer who created a delivery "golf tournament." Whenever a new subdivision started, he'd make a dry run and time it. His drivers received a birdie for each delivery made under the specified time, a par if they were within 15 minutes, and a bogey if they ran longer. The best score at the end of the month got a free dinner for two at a nice restaurant. A speeding ticket disqualified them.

Yes, it was time-consuming and no, it wasn't foolproof. It worked because it engaged people. Keeping score isn't just about proving yourself to your customers-it's also about employees proving themselves to themselves. Software and GPS make it easy to keep score. How you use all that data determines the impact.

And just for the record, it was Giants 17, Patriots 14.

Greg Brooks is a former editor of ProSales who now is president of Building Supply Channel Inc., a training and consulting firm based in New Albany, Ind. Contact him at greg@cs24.us or at 866.272.4776.