What gets measured, gets done

Well, the crystal ball fortune tellers from last year are remarkably quiet this year, but who could have predicted a year like 2020? This also tends to be the time to make New Years resolutions, which have a success rate not much higher than the odds of winning the Melbourne Cup. However, a bit from left field, but I came across a little cheat tip reminder that can help both in personal life and business to stay on course towards a better future.

Faithful readers will recall that RD Williams undertook the Global Challenge a little while back. It was simply a Team building activity based on wearing a wrist tracker to encourage increased physical step activity. The outcome reminded me of the old truth: “What gets measured, gets done”.

In the latter part of 2020, I yet again donned a Fitbit, this time programming in some self-imposed targets. If I’m lagging, I get zapped a reminder (a bit like Team pressure to lift my act). I can check progress in real time, make daily comparisons, and get weekly reports tracking key performance areas compared to historical periods. As I reach the new levels of performance, I raise the bar a bit. Taking my eyes off the prize over Christmas quickly showed up in my KPI’s, and the targets needed to be tightened to make up for lost ground. Which is basically how good business planning works, regularly adjusting for changes in circumstances.

This reminded me of another consideration: people often overestimate what they can achieve in a day, but underestimate what they can achieve over a longer period. By setting a longer-term goal, then breaking it into smaller milestones, we will realise we don’t need to make drastic “New Year’s Resolutions” (that we rarely achieve).

The easiest way I can think of to explain it is in an economical example (it’s one of my favourite ways to measure things, can’t fudge the result much). If most people were told to save or raise $5,000 in a year, there is a tendency to think something like “I can’t do that, I’d have to sell a prized possession”. Even breaking it into a weekly target of saving $100 per week can seem daunting. But if we said save $15 per day, it seems a lot more attainable. A lot of people spend that per day on the smoko-truck (bring left overs instead) or buy take away coffees or impulse buys at the servo (at double the supermarket price). The point is, $15 per day is probably not an insurmountable objective, but is $5,475 over a year… Not the same as winning the big one in Lotto, but still, wouldn’t it be nice…I knew a guy many years ago whose wife told him if he gave up smoking he could spend the cost of the cigarettes on whatever he liked. Soon, he had the latest model sports motorbike, then was upgrading his bike regularly and started buying nice cars and going on nice holidays with his wife. All achieved from basically sticking to and achieving a small goal consistently.

The same applies to business management. Many years ago, I worked for a successful market leading multinational, and we set ourselves a target to double our profitability. In a long term profitable business, where historical successes had been the usual “improve by CPI plus a little”, this was quite a change from the norm. Except we didn’t sell the goal as a doubling of profitability within our organisation. We set “the 1% Challenge”. Increase sales by 1%, reduce every cost by 1%, increase margin by 1%, reduce sick leave by 1% – you get the message. Now, nobody in any area of the business can argue with the achievability of that? We then gave regular updates on KPI’s, addressed any lagging areas early (but most people were proactive in doing their part anyway), and voila! We exceeded the target that might otherwise have been seen as insurmountable.

My point is that even in a challenging market, focus on improving the things you can control. Set SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed) and get yourself/your Team on board. Hold yourself accountable by tracking progress regularly, and even “buzzing” yourself when falling short to stay on schedule. You might even be surprised at what you can achieve, no matter what the outside world throws at you.

I think we’ll all struggle to guess the developments for 2021. But if we focus on making everything a bit better wherever we can (our own lives, our businesses and industry which all form part of the society we live in), then the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can achieve.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

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