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Measuring what matters

Posted June 10, 2014 8:41 PM by Melanie Burton

So, I did it. I ran my half marathon. I’m not sharing my time, because yes, it was that unimpressive and well honestly, quite underwhelming to you regular runners BUT I did it. I finished the race and I’m proud because one year ago, I’d barely/rarely run more than a mile. For me, it wasn’t about beating the other 25,000 runners… it was about finishing – it was setting a stretch goal to help get me to a point of accomplishment that I’d never gotten to.

I know I know, you’re all wondering how I did it. How does someone go from a couch potato to a (half) marathon runner in a mere few months? It was more than just setting a stretch goal (see my previous blog on the importance and power of setting stretch goals here). Progress was about measuring the RIGHT thing. Had I spent every training day focusing on mastering an 8 minute mile, I would have ended my training as a 4 mile runner. Instead, I focused on measuring distance, because for me that’s what mattered. I didn’t want to be the fastest runner, I wanted to be one of the runners. I wanted to finish the race.

Measurement is important – what gets measured gets done. Choosing the right thing to measure drives performance and provides direction, but how do we determine what to measure? There are two key things I think about.

  1. Have several indicators – to paint a picture and allow you to understand the relationships and determine what is actually affecting the outcome you want to achieve. There may be assumptions at the table that something drives progress, when in fact it’s something else entirely.
  2. Have a mix of output and outcome indicators – output indicators give you something to manage to. They help you look at what you’re doing on a day to day basis. You have to look at where you are and be able to predict where you’re going in addition to where you’ve been. Outcome indicators show you where you’ve been – what your past actions resulted in. Outcome indicators are drivers – they give you direction and help you figure out what it is you actually want to accomplish and if you are accomplishing it.

Take my half marathon training for example. Along the way, I measured how often I run, how different factors affected my running – what I ate, what I listened to, what I did the day before, etc. but everything I did, every decision I made, was with the goal of running 13.1 miles in mind. Without the focus of that outcome, I could have gone on the same number of runs but end up prepped to run a one mile sprint instead of a 13 mile jog.

So, since what gets measured gets done, measure what matters and if you can’t manage to, find some indicators you can and measure them all.