“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – Peter Drucker.
There is no way to know for sure the degree of one’s progress without a reliable system for assessing it. We all need metrics as it is clearly stated in the Pearson’s Law. We have managed to crack this in our system and achieve exponential growth via the weekly review which we do together with our Goal Buddy.
Today, we will discuss the role of evaluating our actions. Still, this could very well be a double-edged sword if not done properly.
Measurement of any goal
It’s easy in the world of business – the KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) has been the standard for a long time. These are things like daily sales, the number of satisfied customers, new customers, etc. There are many examples you can get on the Internet or in textbooks.
But there is little on the topic to be found when it comes to our personal goals. In our newly published book, we take examine in detail when, how, and why to apply the process of measurement.
Let’s first quickly summarize.
What do we measure?
We can apply it to either an event or a number:
- “To go to the gym” – the answer is a clear-cut one – yes or no;
- “To lose 5 pounds “- that’s easy to verify too by getting on the scales.
When we define the 90-day goals, we aim at both. We commit to the action which is the essence of our objective. But we also look at the result so that we make sure we on the right track.
Setting them well is extremely important, but it can also be rife with hidden traps.
Let’s see the benefits first, starting with the most obvious ones.
# Benefit 1: Positive focus
When you adopt certain rules of assessment, it’s much easier to monitor how we are doing. Even a very small win along the way becomes a reliable source of motivation.
A good sense of progress is the driving force for finding out the next step forward.
# Benefit 2: A better understanding of what the right actions are
It happens sometimes that you change something in your behavior just a little bit and the outcome isn’t obvious. As such, it is difficult to register unless we make a conscious effort to do so.
A good example of the “1% change”
We like very much the story of the British Olympic Cycling team. For many years it had a pretty unremarkable record. So much so that major brands started canceling sponsorship. In 2003 a new coach was selected – Dave Brailsford. He made many seemingly minor and even unrelated changes and then started sampling the athletes’ performance.
His strategy proved to be a winning one:
- A surgeon was hired as a consultant to teach the team members how to wash their hands properly. (Today, for a very different reason, we all know how important this is). The idea was to minimize virus and other infections.
- A new type of more comfortable saddle was introduced and the effect was analyzed.
- The athletes were given customized sleeping bags for their long periods of training spent on the road. This led to a significant reduction in their recovery time.
In short, Dave Brailsford introduced several small improvements that when put together led to some phenomenal results in competition.
# Benefit 3: Accumulation of small steps
The bigger the success is the harder it is to miss it. But the smaller ones, if not given special attention, can easily fall through the cracks. It is the minor changes that could accumulate and reinforce each other and thus turn much more productive.
You rarely have to dash down the road of success. It’s not a sprint but rather a marathon.
The well-structured and consistent rules help us stay always fully aware of our progress. No doubt, this is good for our confidence, and therefore makes it easier for us to keep going in harder times.
Be careful, though!
However, there is some risk. Metrics could be also very misleading.
This usually unfolds in two ways:
- The one-sided perspective of the selected indicator.
- The danger of turning the whole process into an end of itself.
Trap 1: There is a great deal of subjectivity involved
Since it is a matter of choosing what and how we estimate for, in the end, we will get different data.
Let’s say you are given the task of just having a walk in the park. It’s up to you how to do it. What do you think your focus will be on? The distance you covered or the time you spent outside?
Of course, you will end up with a very different picture depending on what you decide to focus on, right?
The importance of this choice points us to the other possible mistake.
Trap 2: Metrics can become an end in themselves
It’s crucial not to lose sight of the bigger picture.
After all, if we want to exercise so that we stay healthy and productive that should be our focus and nothing else. Let’s forget about the amount of time we spent in the gym or the miles we covered during our morning run.
Metrics are just the means, not the end. And if we fail to get that we could easily run into trouble. Here is what happened to us not that long ago.
The mistake Niki made
He did set up a goal related to sports. It was a bit ambitious and not so easy. Of course, he did everything according to the rules of our system. The objective was defined on the basis of his actions while he had a specific aim in mind.
Working out every single day was great. And yet there was something else he was doing or, to be clear – overdoing. He was getting on the scales twice a day. No surprise here – it was very much counterproductive since only disappointment would come out of this preoccupation with the weight loss.
There were two mistakes:
First, he shouldn’t measure so often. In the “GoalBuddy” system, we rely on the rule to look at progress after 90 days.
And second, he had chosen the wrong indicator. It turned out that in his case losing weight is not relevant. In reality, Niki lost something like 3-4% fat while the extra weight was due to his increased muscle mass. In the end, this is much closer to the bigger vision for health.
“I realized that I was using the wrong metrics and on top of that I was doing it way too often. This didn’t make it easier for me. But when I refocused exclusively on my action things got much easier. What made all the difference was entirely at the level of my understanding of the problem.”
How do we approach the issue?
The framework of the quarterly period is what will allow us to fit all the pieces together. The 90-day action goals are the stepping stones towards our vision.
We assess actions every week during the meetings with our Buddy. We discuss how well we did or the difficulties we encountered and in the process, we try to figure out where to go next.
We look at the results only at the end of the quarter. We try to look at everything – actions and the corresponding outcome. We also assess the chosen strategy.
- If we have managed to complete what we planned we will continue to work in the same manner.
- If we haven’t then we will have to choose a new strategy and set a different 90-day goal.
We don’t take measures every day or week – only once for the quarterly period.
Today we started our discussion with a quote about what predicates progress. That’s exactly what we do – every week we review and then “report” it to our Goal Buddy. The sharing is essential to knowing well our path and therefore we can advance faster and with greater conviction that we are on the right track.
And how about you?
Would you tell us about some of your objectives? How do you perform on them? How often do you take measures? Are you discussing it with anyone? What are the challenges? You do that and we will comment and try to be of some help. Thank you very much! See you soon!
 The American expert in management theory and business management, Peter Ferdinand Drucker (1909 – 2005), says: “If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It.”, Is also often quoted as follows: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. ”
 The Pearson’s Law – “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially. ” Carl Pearson (1857–1936) was a prominent British mathematician.