On Metrics and Goal-setting

Setting targets and goals for achievement in work and personal life is all well and good. They are, in fact, a useful method to quantify in some degree your effectiveness. However, there is a slippery slope of using metrics as a crutch. In my limited experience in the workforce, I have personally seen the power of metrics completely dictate the actions of employees. This works in conjunction with the desire to follow the path of least resistance (in an effort remain effective, of course?) to sometimes create unusual or undesired dynamics.

When you set a goal for yourself, there are three key guidelines to follow:

Relevance

Ensure the metric used to measure yourself against the goal aligns with the overall objective and time frame. In the business world, simply look at what metric and time frame your boss is measured against, and make your metric compatible with that. You will become far more valuable as you demonstrate how you add to your supervisor’s bottom line.

Effectiveness

Try to avoid conflicting or redundant metrics, otherwise you’ll waste far too much time trying to reconcile the two. The same goes for measurement systems. Some might argue that two systems can be used to audit and validate each other, but one system’s weaknesses might just as easily impact the performance of that “audit”. Effective goals and measurements are singular, clear, and concise.

Improvement

While you want avoid running two metrics or measurement systems simultaneously, the most important fact I’ve learned is the need to constantly iterate and improve upon these systems. If you discover a better system, use it. As creatures of habit, we tend to forget the unchangeable is actually changeable. Establish a regular schedule for evaluation, so that improvement can be fostered without large disruption to processes.

Hopefully these three lessons will help enhance your goal-setting and metric selection process. I know they have helped me.
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