Okay, listen up all you Achievement Junkies: Measurement matters!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve heard it all before: “Measurement drives improvement,” it says here, and we’ve got an array of metrics that can measure just about anything….
We can measure how far, how long, how big, how high, how wide, how deep, how many and on and on and on. We can measure anything and everything and we’ve got the numbers and comparisons and indicators to prove it. Yup!
Insights on performance are sure to follow…if we can actually swallow down and digest this data mountain accumulated by the extraordinarily complex permutations of all these measuring devices, formulae, hypotheses, computer projections and such that our busy, busy brains have developed.
THE FLY IN THE MEASURING OINTMENT
There is one really glaring major flaw in that game-plan.
We humans can measure a million different things. The problem is that our very human brains can only handle – process, store, and respond to — so many bits of information before we go into overload and get all dizzy and nauseous.
When we hit the wall of our built-in “cognitive scope limitation,” the Smarty-Pants in the white lab coats tell us, we humans tend to start simplifying things and distorting and bending the data all out of shape.
This is not a real help when we’re prognosticating, trying to plan future moves, making important decisions, and stuff like that.
LOOKING AT WHAT MATTERS
So, then we come to another concept: not everything that can be measured matters.
As Albert Einstein once said, “everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
At the same time, it is worth noting that the old business adage, “What gets measured, gets done,” is not wrong.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPI)
Actually, in any given system, there are only a handful of key metrics that really deserve our limited attention.
In the business world, these things are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Name any human activity – business, sports, academics, health, success, meaning-making – and there are going to be people who’ll be more than happy to tell you where to focus your attention so you can suss out whether you are actually making progress or not.
Sometimes they are right; sometimes not. You get to decide. (Oh, boy!)
The thing is all of us are likely to get fixated on certain performance metrics for no other reason than that they are easier to measure than other (perhaps more important) ones.
If you get fixated on measuring things that really don’t lead to the kind of performance improvement you actually want, you can end up wasting a heck of a lot of time, energy and resources that could be better spent doing other things.
QUESTIONING AND RUMINATING (WHAT AM I DOING?)
To bring a little clarity to the whole thing, there are, perhaps, three questions you might want to ponder in all of this:
- What matters most to you in this life you are living?
- In the sea of performance metrics for this goal, system, or whatever-the-heck-it-is that you’re doing, which ones are absolutely crucial?
- If one of these many metrics will lead directly to improvement and success, which one would it be?
Separating out the few that really matter from the many that don’t is not an easy task. Knowing what you are trying to actually accomplish is the first step.
THE CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER (CMO) SERENITY PRAYER
A tweet posted to Twitter by @elroythecat (aka copywriter David Moore who’s the creative director and co-founder of Kingswood and Palmerston, consultants for business-to-business marketers) is a beaut.
“Grant me the courage to zig when others zag,
The patience to measure what matters,
The strength to have faith in the things we cannot track
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
The line that gets me in that Serenity Prayer iteration is the one about having the strength to “have faith in the things we cannot track.”
AND THEN THERE’S A BOOK….
In self-help blogger extraordinaire Mark Manson’s book, THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, the author pinpoints our values as the essential underpinnings to everything we are and everything we do.
Manson says it’s important to ask these three questions:
- Why do I consider this to be a success/failure?
- How am I choosing to measure myself?
- By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?
These are not easy questions to even look at. They are unlikely to have simple answers.
But, as he says, “If what we value is unhelpful and what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values will be out of whack.”
Everything we think and feel about a situation is ultimately going to come back to what we consider “valuable,” i.e., the things that align well with our own set of values.
That may be why many people who have reached the summit of whatever mountain they’ve challenged and conquered often stand around on top of it and wonder,
“Is THIS all there is?”
As Manson points out, “the objective truth about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation and how you choose to measure it and value it.”
This does tend to echo the old wise guys and their assorted takes on figuring out what makes your own life meaningful.
“VIEW FROM THE TOP” – A SERIES OF TALKS PRESENTED BY STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
I’ve stumbled across a trio of short YouTube videos from the Stanford Graduate School of Business “View From the Top,” an extraordinary student-led program that brings top global business and government leaders to the school to share their insights on leadership, business and life.
The videos are clips where the individual speakers answer the question, “What Matters Most to Me and Why?” and were uploaded in 2021 by the school.
The first is an interview with American billionaire venture capitalist Doug Leone who was the former managing partner of Sequoia Capital until he stepped aside in 2022. The clip is from a “View From the Top” interview recorded in 2014.
The next one features Meg Whitman, the US ambassador to Kenya, an American business executive and a former gubernatorial candidate for California. At the time of the interview, which was recorded in 2015, she was the president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
The final one is a clip with Da Vita Healthcare Partners CEO and chairman Kent Thiery which was also recorded in 2015.
This speaker series is one of several organized by the school. It began in 1978 and is “the dean’s premier speaker series.” You can click on the button below to access more of the recorded sessions of a unique educational series that began in 1978.
Here’s a poem:
AM I ENOUGH?
Am I enough?
That seems to be the central question
I am always trying to answer lately.
And it’s only now that I am beginning to wonder…
What is this “enough”?
Where did I get this question, anyway?
Who is asking it?
All I am is what I am.
If that is not “enough,”
Then what am I supposed to do about it?
(Maudlin tears do not help.)
And only now it occurs to me that
Nobody ever defined “enough.”
Nobody ever pointed out where
The line between “enough” and “not” was.
So…does the line wander?
Or does “enough” depend on who is watching?
And now I have to wonder:
Who set up this dumb contest?
And why am I even entered in it?
Do I even care?
By Netta Kanoho
Header Photo Credit: “How Tall Am I Now?” by Lars Plougmann via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
SOME OTHER POSTS TO EXPLORE
(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)
- SHAPER CHALLENGE (An Un-Seeing Exercise)
- BEYOND STUFF-LOVE (PART 5): Lifestyle
- JOURNALING 201 (Mind-Mining)
Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.