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05 Oct

Follow up on what you actually need to know, not what's easy to measure

Datum: 2017-10-05 11:43

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.

Do this
Take a few min­utes to think about:

  1. What you mea­sure and fol­low up on today. Is it the right thing to focus on or just what is easy to measure?

  2. Is there some kind of mea­sure­ment, data or goal you might ben­e­fit from adding?

  3. 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.