It became clear the other day how deceptive measuring our progress can be. I was discussing with a client what goals he should work towards with regards to his responsibilities, and as we were working through his goals we realized that it is deceivingly easy to begin at the wrong end of things — that we tend to measure areas of progress that are easy to measure rather than measure what we actually benefit from knowing.
We did not fall into the trap this time, but I came close to doing so when I started pondering what data we could extract from one of the systems my client was working in, rather than what information he would need to know in order to make well-informed decisions in his work.
Measuring the meaningless
If we spend time measuring and following up on things that are not actually of any use to us, but which are easy to follow up on, we will eventually feel that following up on our progress is meaningless and unnecessary. All the data we retrieve end up being just a bunch of numbers, and we regard the curves in the diagrams charting our development with indifference.
A measurement of utmost importance
If we instead ask ourselves what we could really benefit from knowing when striving to attain the goals we are responsible for, and figure out a way to measure and follow up on this parameter over time, both the gathering and analyzing of data will be meaningful and relevant.
Obtaining data regardless of luck
Once we know what values we need, we can get started with obtaining the data, and if we are lucky, we will be able to gather or collect the data from one of the systems we are already working in. If we are out of luck, we will have to generate or create the data ourselves by filling out, typing in or even estimating the result for the goal that will determine if we have been successful in what matters most to us.
Sure, it will require more manual work than if the systems did all the measuring, but if you ask me, I would say that if these values help us set more accurate priorities, and thus help us spend more time on the right task at the right time, it is worth the trouble and manual work since it will help you progress in your business — both in the long- and in the short-run.
Take a few minutes to think about:
- What you measure and follow up on today. Is it the right thing to focus on or just what is easy to measure?
- Is there some kind of measurement, data or goal you might benefit from adding?
- Is there something you are currently gathering data for and following up on which is actually irrelevant and which you could either stop measuring right away, or ask your boss for permission to stop measuring if you are not the one who makes the call?
Follow up on the right things
If what you currently measure and follow up on is relevant to you, and you either minimize or get rid of the measurements that are easy to get data for but which are not really meaningful, you will suddenly have a more powerful tool at your disposal. You will see what is relevant and will not have to be distracted by data that you, if truth be told, do not know what to do with.
By keeping your goals fresh and relevant you will make sure that the measurements helping you determine your progress are appropriate as well, and will not spend as much time on irrelevancies.
What’s your way?
How have you determined what goals to focus on and chosen a method for keeping track of your progress? Leave a comment and share your tip.