When you need to measure progress, business consultants will tell you it’s all about performance metrics. It’s true, you need quantitative date. But for most of us, we need to look at more than just numbers. We need to know the why and how of the numbers, and those are concepts you can’t quantify. Plain quantitative data is great for pointing out problems, but it sucks when it comes to helping us fix them! So I’m going to share this very simple hack with you.

To start with, let me remind you I’m a business psychologist and my background is in applied psychology. That means I do fun stuff like statistical analysis, not listen to people tell me about their childhoods. I’m ever-so-fond of empirical science. So first,

This will save time.
This will save time.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but when something isn’t working, I usually want to know why so I can go about fixing it. When I invite people for dinner and find one of the forks has gone missing, I need to find it. Counting the forks, repeatedly and in different ways – might be a way to kill time but it’s NOT FINDING MY FORK! All the metrics in the world can describe the problem, but they suck at fixing it.

Here’s the hack: shift the focus to qualitative data. Infer from the numbers, make deductions, draw conclusions. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes.

Last fall I did a fitness boot camp, ignored the weather implications, irritated my arthritis, and had to plank on my elbows instead of doing push-ups for a while. That’s a performance story in one sentence that summarizes the data (temperature, barometric pressure), but also tells you why the numbers did what they did (arthritis). That’s what this hack does: it focuses on the why – the context, so you get the qualitative information you need to figure out what’s going on.

Sometimes you have to adjust your focus.
Sometimes you have to adjust your focus.

When your metrics aren’t quite working, shifting to a qualitative perspective works wonders. But while you’re at it, you might want to think about why your metrics aren’t giving you more of what you need to begin with.

Questions to ask when evaluating your metrics:
  1. Is the program helping what it was/is intended to help?
  2. Are the tasks done as designed, when planned, and for as long as planned?
  3. Do some attempts fall short of expectations, and if so, what happens in those cases?
  4. Are other outcomes being achieved?
  5. Is the plan or program changeable in response to outside influences like finances, weather, priority shifts, or crisis?
  6. Are all of the if-then assumptions clear and accurate?
  7. What is the evidence is there that those assumptions aren’t clear or accurate?
  8. Are there conflicts within outcomes?
  9. Are there external constraints?
  10. Who really is responsible and can the responsibility be shifted?
  11. Which task is most important always, and what are the contingency priorities?

There you have it. You know I appreciate your likes and shares because it gets the word out to other people who can also benefit; that’s why I have a blog and not a best-seller. But I also invite you to Like the Facebook page and engage, or leave a comment or question here – they call it SOCIAL media for a reason!

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One thought on “1 Little-Known Hack to Make Metrics Work Better

  1. I truly like what you have to say. Great things to think about. Those trying times, I’ll channel my focus in a better direction. Love your blog.

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