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Taking Baby Steps in Tracking Performance

Posted June 10, 2011 7:29 PM by Mark Cutler

As most people who have children know, a major milestone in a newborn's first few months of life is when he finally sleeps through the night. If it isn't obvious why this is a milestone, I will tell you: Because his parents get to sleep through the night as well.

Well, with an eight-week old baby boy who was waking up about three times per night and a pediatrician for a wife, something had to give. So, I wasn't surprised when she handed (figuratively, since she gave me the Nook book) me The Baby Sleep Solution. "Read this," she said, "This is how we are going to get him to sleep through the night."

I read the book. Let me summarize its method for getting your infant to sleep through the night:

  • Have a plan
  • Use three measures and set targets for them:
    • Amount of milk consumed per day – there is a minimum amount of food that an infant should consumer per day and it slowly increases – usually start at 24 oz./day.
    • Time between feedings – increase the time between feedings – usually starting at 2.5 hours and working your way up to 4 hours.
    • Number of feedings per day – reduce the number, which is a side effect of increasing the time between feedings.
  • Track Progress

So I thought, great, this makes total sense, I'm a strategy management consultant. I'm on board. The problem, however, is that my wife is not a performance management consultant.

Therefore, our conversations about feeding the baby completely flipped from her reminding me to read the book to me insisting that we follow the high-level concepts it espouses (bullet points above). I fell into my consultant role, reiterating the importance of sticking to our plan – spacing the feedings 3 hours apart – and she fell into her role of the new mother who refused to do anything that may cause her baby to cry when she knew how to prevent it.

Her book even warned about this and provided a "toolbox" of things you could do with the baby to distract him from hunger if he started crying to be fed 15 or 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I began to get frustrated that my wife wanted the baby to sleep through the night, promoted a way to get there, but – in my mind – made up every excuse possible to delay or avoid implementing it.

I thought to myself, this sounds familiar – it's a case of life imitating work. As a strategy consultant I've had many clients who take the time to develop a strategy with goals of where they would like to be in three to five years. However, they often ran into problems with implementation. While they may have had a plan, they didn't set up a framework measures, targets, and a way to track their progress.

The irony for me was that about a week after my wife and I discussed really building a plan and sticking to it, but before we implemented it, our son slept through the night without waking up. We were excited, but this was just one night. Then, he slept through the next night as well. Wow, we thought, all we needed was to develop a plan; we didn't even have to execute it. Sometimes I think clients do the same thing with their strategic plans – spend three days at an offsite meeting putting them together, not doing anything to really execute, but crossing their fingers that they'll attain their goals anyway.

Well, on the third night our son woke up in the middle of the night. So, it looks like we will actually have to implement our plan to achieve our goals. As most mission-driven organizations know, that is the hard part.

Filed Under Measurement