The tyranny of metrics is that I keep looking at my page views on this blog, my subscriber count, my Klout score, my blog rating, and I can’t stop. I have to keep blogging, tweeting, and conversing, or else it goes down. There is no taking a pause, no relaxation, or my rating goes down. There’s even that Small Business Influencers voting going on right now, and I’m watching that too.
Before that it was unit sales of Business Plan Pro, web views, conversion rates, and profits. And before that it was sales and profits in earlier jobs, column inches published, newspapers using UPI vs. AP, GPA in grad school, GPA in college, GMAT and SAT, GPA in high school.
It never ends. Did you think when you got out of high school you’d be able to forget metrics like GPA or SAT? Or that when you got out of college you’d be able to forget that GPA and the GMAT? Probably not.
Which is also the magic of metrics too. Because most of us don’t want the numbers to end. “Immeasurement,” as Patrick Lencioni calls it, makes us miserable.
Patrick is the author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. And he says most people want and need and want our metrics. “Immeasurement” makes us miserable. Here’s a quote from a blog post he wrote:
All human beings in any kind of a job need some way to assess their own performance that’s objective. It might not be numerical or easily quantitative, but it’s somewhat objective and observable by them, because then they are not left to depend upon the opinion or the whim of a manager once a year during a performance appraisal. People need to be able to go home from work every night, or every week, or every month, and know where they stand, and know what they can do to influence how they’re working.
So yes, metrics are pushy, but yes, metrics help you and others to care about what you do. You want your numbers going up. And you want your peers to see your numbers going up. And that leads us directly to the management benefits of simple metrics. If there is some objective score to keep, then it’s objective, it’s motivating, and it helps us manage a team. To me, that’s supposed to be in the live business planning that sets up metrics and gets reviewed regularly. Others might call that a scorecard system, or critical factors … there are lots of ways to develop that same core function of metrics and management.
So choose the right numbers to follow.