Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don’t Waste Time With Trivial Measures

You hear it a lot, don't you? That you should only measure what you can control. Hogwash! The most powerful measures are those that track what you can only influence.

Let's take a closer look at how to measure to expand your influence – and get much more meaningful results.

Stephen Covey Started It…

In his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about our circle of concern and circle of influence. The idea is that we shouldn't spend our time and energy worrying about things in our circle of concern. We've can't do anything about results we might want that are out there in our cirlce of concern.

But by the same token, we don't have to spend all our time focusing just on the results within our circle of control. If we do that, we measure trivial things only, like how much work we're doing.

The real power comes from what we do about the results we want in our circle of influence.

Focus On And Measure The Results In Your Circle of Influence

The kinds of results in our circle of influence include the impacts that our work has on our customers, colleagues, managers and suppliers. These results are the true purpose for turning up at work. Working hard and doing our tasks is *not* the purpose for turning up at work.

Measuring results in your circle of influence starts with examining the interface between your work and your customers and other stakeholders. And to understand what these results truly are, you're going to have to ask those customers and stakeholders. In their answers are the clues about what difference you can be making for them, and therefore what results you should be measuring.

It can also help to flowchart your work processes too, to make it more visible what exact outputs you provide to your customers and stakeholders, as a trigger to talk with them about the outcomes they experience. ('Outcomes' is just another word that means impacts or results.)

Exercise Your Influence To Improve Performance

When the performance measures of the results in your circle of influence show you where things are really at, you can focus more easily on what you can improve.

Remember that in your circle of influence, you're never aiming for 100% perfection. You're just aiming to move the results closer to where you (and your customers and stakeholders) want them to be. And you'll get better and better at this, but only if you keep at it over time.

Strategies to exercise your influence, to improve your performance results, include:

1. analysing your work processes, to find ways you can redesign or streamline how you produce those outputs for your customers and stakeholders

2. collaborating with others you work with, such as your colleagues or suppliers, to find ideas that might improve your performance results

3. raising awareness or knowledge of the desired results among others who have more influence than you do, and inviting their help

The idea is to not give up on measuring the results that matter, just because you're not sure you have enough control over the results that matter.

Is there an important result that you're not measuring because it's outside your circle of control? Take another look at that result, and if it's in your circle of influence, start measuring it and exploring how you can expand and exercise your influence in moving it closer to where you want it to be.

Thanks to Stacey Barr / Stacey Barr - Measure Up


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