“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.” — Yogi Berra
I got into the office at 7:00. First one in made coffee, so I did. As I passed her office with a steaming mug, K called out to me in a panicked voice. R had been in early and run the numbers. He’d blasted her for covering up plummeting market share in key markets. Sweat drenched her pretty silk blouse. She handed me the report that he’d thrown in her face.
One glance told me everything. R hadn’t used the correct factors, meaning our dramatic growth in market share was upside down. Shaking, K made a joke about my teaching him how to use the new program. She ran down the hall to show him the corrected reports. Disaster averted, we resumed our normal, chaotic, caffeine-fueled day.
I’m a story teller. Story was the foundation for my years in school, product management, new product development, and management consulting. Now, story is what I do. No matter the challenge, story creates, shapes, and develops. Build your world, set your goals and principles, and craft your story.
Our leader based his story on wrong assumptions. He’d used data to create a story of cover-up, malfeasance, and incompetence that nearly cost him a brilliant manager.
Lesson learned that day: use the right data in the right way to measure the right things. Metrics are not inherently meaningful; what matters is what you do with them.
Our ability to gather, manipulate, and report data has grown faster than our mastery of information. If we keep our goals in mind, then we’ll know what information we need to guide us and what we might want to do with what we have learned. Data and resulting information are valuable only to the extent that they are meaningful and actionable. Will a pivot, a feint, a dash across the field make an impact on the numbers?
Today is the 22nd day of my daily blogging commitment. My goals were basic ones: write and post a blog entry every day for the month of May and learn from the experience. While I can access all manner of statistics about number of posts, followers, recommendations, these are interesting, sparkling distractions from my own personal metrics: Did I write every day? Did I learn?
So far, so good. I have written and posted everyday. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about writing and about incredibly generous, open, creative, talented, and fantastically fun bloggers. Therefore, I have been successful in meeting my challenge so far and have what I need to continue onward.
Now that I’m thinking about my results, I want to do more. I want to take more chances, see what happens. It’s all information. Already, I anticipate continuing my daily blogging. That will support my own personal goals — and bring me joy.
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There are plenty of smart, attractive and energetic people providing hammers, nails, all manner of turbo-charged power tools. Don’t allow them to lure you off your path, from the spark within that set you into dreaming, doing, and becoming. Don’t allow gurus and alarmists to caution, goad, or do anything to keep you from knowing your own mind, admitting your own truths, and doing what you know is right.
Like power tools, metrics can wreak mayhem. Don’t let them.
Keep your eyes on your own summit. Do what you know needs to be done to achieve your climb. Unexpected is part of the journey. Information is a tool, not a judgment, not proof, not promise. It’s a tool to be wielded wisely, in the way that works best for you.