Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time NOT to Measure

... quick note off topic. I've had some good feedback on the blog... thank you! :D So, in 2012 I'm going to expand it a bit. I am going to start tweeting ... my first one, today's is a good one... follow me on twitter @BreaknEquations.

Now for the blog...

It seems like every organization goes through this cycle where all of a sudden the organization becomes paralyzed by the thought of doing something (anything) without data. My organization is currently in this mode, "data mode"... we are all of a sudden on the metrics / dashboard / analytics kick, where everything must equate to some set of numbers.

There are certainly lots of great articles out there that show how great measuring can be and that doing so can lead you to great, long-term insight. The coolest ones typically show how data completely disproved something that we would have just assumed was common sense (examples)... which then naturally leads us to this overwhelming conclusion that since something so fundamental could be wrong,  we should then assume NOTHING and collect data and measure everything... and so the cycle begins!

There is this thing in physics called the "Observer Effect" where simply by watching (observing) something, it changes that something which is being watched. Going way beyond just watching something, there are times when tracking and measuring can have a negative result.

One of the spots where this might actually be true would be in goal setting.... We recently focused on creating a goal setting process for the organization and being in the "data mode," our first inclination was to create a process where people would write down goals, we would then put numbers next to the each goal and, by the end of year, we could tell exactly how good you were at achieving your goals... awesome, right? We could even base things like salary increases and promotions on that number. Hurray, we have found the Annual Review Equation! :D

But wait a minute! What are we really (really, really) trying to achieve? Were we really trying to measure people? Or was the whole idea behind goal setting to get the maximum growth out of people... clearly, at least our case, it was the latter.

We're all human... and as humans we tend to look for easier ways to do things, especially when it comes to systems or processes and especially, especially when it comes to ones that could affect us in a negative manner. Most of us (maybe all) tend to game the systems when we know we are being measured (judged) against them. So for example... if I know that I will be measured against the goals I communicate (set) this year... I will most likely only communicate goals I am very confident I can achieve... I will limit my growth in at least some manner.
OK... how about some data then! :D (I do find this part at least a little ironic, measurement data)
 - Approximately 80% of people never set goals, although most believe that goal setting is important.
 - People who write down their goals... simply writing them on paper... are up to 20% more likely to achieve them.
 - People who share their goals with three or more people are up to 45% more likely to achieve them.
 - People who continually check on the progress of their goals are up to a whopping 80% more likely to achieve them. 1

Stay with me here... So if we can gain more, deeper, bigger and better goals by NOT measuring and we can improve the success rate of achieving those goals by as much as 80% simply by recording and discussing them on a monthly basis, is it not a much better equation?

So I ask... will you mandate measurement and data for everything? Or learn when to maximize beyond it. :D