STEP THREE: Determine how you will measure success.
You’ve set some goals. Congratulations! Your goals won’t get you anywhere if you don’t have some indicators of whether the work you’re doing is working. You don’t want to do all the work to realize you didn’t end up where you hoped you would. The way you ensure that doesn’t happen is to monitor / measure your progress along the way and not just at the end.
When you are trying to get healthy, you have to decide what indicators you are going to look at as evidence of your success. You might use your weight, body fat percentage, the way your clothes feel when you put them on or medical indicators like blood pressure or cholesterol levels to tell you whether you are moving in the right direction. The most important thing is not to rely on one measure alone. If you’re changing your diet to include healthy foods, but also working out with a trainer doing strength conditioning, your weight may not go down (muscle weighs more than fat); however, your clothes might feel as though they fit better. Your blood pressure might be lower. One measurement rarely gives you a completely clear picture of what is really going on.
When it comes to business, progress and achievement measures are both critical. What’s the difference? Here’s an analogy to help you understand the distinction:
You’re making some soup. Throughout the process, you periodically taste the soup and add spices based upon how the soup tastes. Every time you do that, you’re measuring progress. You’re taking a snapshot of a moment in time. You still have a chance to change the outcome. You can adjust your process, turn down the heat, whatever you need to do to improve the final outcome. These are formative measures, because they inform what you’re doing and give you information you can act upon.
Fast forward. Now the soup is on the table. Your guests are placing their napkins on their laps. They taste the soup. As they do, they’re measuring achievement. At that point, you are not taking the soup away and adding more spices. Your work is complete. The soup tastes the way the soup is going to taste. This is a summative measure, or an achievement measure.
You need both formative measures to inform changes, and summative measures to tell you whether you arrived where you hoped you would. In business, quarterly measurements are often used to indicate your progress, while annual goals indicate your achievement at the end of the year.
So get to it. Stop guessing. Decide how you will measure your progress and achievement and be consistent in doing it. If you’re going to work hard, you should make sure the work is working.
Feel free to share some of your measures below or ask questions during the process. We look forward to seeing your progress.
Photo credit: Creative Commons hjl