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Measuring Metrics

What does it cost you to measure activities? Where is the line between "We need to measure this" and "It is not worth measuring?"

What does it really cost you to apply metrics to your projects and personal life goals?

It is costing you more than you think.

I worked in a department that was metric crazed. If it moved, it was measured. If it didn't move, we measured it. We measured how much we measured.

(I know, we are not currently in "departments" and all employess are currently in "teams" now - management buzzword of the decade - it makes me feel like I work at WallyWorld. If we were all on the same team, then we would not have forced ranking systems from the wisdom of the "HR Team" that pit colleagues against each other for a piece of the annual bonus. Instead, we would have a system that allows me to be rewarded on the value of my contribution to the corporation's bottom line through a feasible stock-purchase plan. The fact that the CEO "Team" earns more in year than I can earn in a lifetime is a slap-in-the-face reminder that some "teams" are more "teamlike" than others. George Orwell's words come to mind - "we are all equal, but some are more equal than others.")

Back to the point. I submit to you that your current system of measuring activities has room for improvement, which is holding you back from achieving more than you can achieve with your current metrics. 

Huh? "But Wayne, that makes no sense."

Here's how reviewing your current system of tracking metrics will benefit you. Let's look at what it really costs you to track metrics. 

  1. The obvious cost is financial. It takes time to track metrics and time is money. If you spend 15 minutes a week to track a metric (such as "number of test cases executed"), then it is 1/4 of an hour's salary. Couple this to follow-up questions, reporting out this metric and answering the questions and concerns around the metric "Will the project complete on time if we continue testing at this rate?" then you can estimate the financial cost of each metric. It is simple to compare the cost of tracking the metric to the value it provides to manage the project.

  2. A hidden cost is the missed opportunity cost. If you are tracking metrics for an hour a week, what are you not doing in that hour? What could you be doing instead? Could you have used the time to create a new metric that is more meaningful and less time-consuming? Could you have addressed the underlying reason for a poor performance on the other metrics that you are tracking. We don't measure the cost of missed opportunity, but it is part of the total cost of tracking metrics.

  3.  Metrics disrupt flow. When you are in-the-flow and your project team members (not a department of colleagues), is focused on working towards the goal, then stopping work to track the "Number of attendences at a status meeting" disrupts the energy. We are humans, emotional and not always rational. When you are working as a team, building on each other's energy, masterminding solutions, then stopping to document a metric slows down the creative juices. 

  4. Metrics don't mean the same thing to everyone. Some people are wired to understand numbers and I appreciate that accountants and acturies find their work intersting. I look at a table of numbers and think "what time is lunch?". Therefore, seventeen ways to measure "Who has the highest statistical likelihood of attending the weekly status meeting" is a waste of valuable time in my eyes.

  5. Metrics can be demoralizing. If you are tracking and reporting metrics that are "nice to have", and never reach the stated value, then you become demoralized. We know that we should get 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. How do you feel when measure this, review this metric each week and find that you could only work out twice this week? Do you feel inspired? If you fail to meet this metric week-after-week, then you are going to feel more inclined to give up than take action and engage a personal trainer to help you. 

I realize that we need metrics to confirm that we are on track / off track to reach our goal. However, my point is that just as one cheeseburger doesn't make you obese, the tracking of metrics creeps up on you until you are tracking more metrics than you need to. The cost of tracking a metric is more than financial. Look at each metric that you track for your professional projects and in your personal life, and ask "Is the value provided by this metric worth the total cost of tracking it?". Dump a few metrics to free up time and resources so that you can make more progress on more important tasks.

Copyright 2018 Wayne Botha Email Wayne Cell: 860.214.4897