Tying up loose ends

I consider most phases of my life (and of my career) as specific projects. Projects which have a certain outcome tied to them. Projects which need metrics to track and project closures which have targets to reach.

In this obsession to be objective about things, I got involved in a couple of projects which were of subjective nature.

What are subjective projects?

Subjective projects are those where the progress of that project is dependant on individual opinions and feelings. An example of such a topic could be Career.

Career fulfillment is a subjective thing. For some people a fulfilling career might be a one which involves loads of payment, for some it might involves getting respect from peers, others might look at impact. You get the drift?

It’s not even about individual feelings as well. As a person supporting a family, the subjectivity is made more complex by not only your belief of a fulfilling career, but also your immediate family’s.

Suddenly, that one question – What does your son do for a living? becomes real.

As a parent, I would love some bragging rights about my children’s achievements. That may or may not be aligned with what my children want to do. So, the moot question was how to go about objectively defining success for a subjective topic.

Numbers help

Some key measures of success do help. Let’s stick with the Career example –

  • My son makes a lakh a month
  • I manage a team of 6
  • My daughter has been working with GDFC Bank for over a decade
  • She got an 20% salary hike this year
  • My son runs his own company that employs 100 individuals
  • I wan’t to be able to take atleast 10 days off in a year to interesting destinations around the world

What’s the problem with this subjectivity?

And here’s my problem with this subjectivity thing. It freaking keeps changing the measure of success!

Sometimes it’s years of experience, sometimes it’s people employed, sometimes it’s cash in hand … and there is no clear metric you optimize things for.

The problem in this world, is where the team which decides the success of this subjectivity has not taken the pains of articulating What is Success.

When this is not articulated enough, you tend to optimize Career (in this example) on some parameters which might be an implicit rubric for you, but may not be understood by everyone else. Hence, the need to articulate.

Another example

Here’s one more example which works for most people.

What’s a good life mean for you?

Can you put down metrics on which if you measure your life, you will be able to answer this question?

If yes (and I haven’t done this yet), then are you doing anything which helps you increase those measues?

In life, or in our Career (my last example), we have these tiny niggling doubts at the back of our mind. These are the loose ends I am talking about.

Can we use metrics and measures to answer and squash these doubts. I think so, but to get there, we need to have a definition of what are our measures of success. I used to post my yearly resolutions for a couple of years on this blog, and then I stopped. Primarily, because of this subjective struggle. No one cared how many posts did I put up on the blog (not even me!), so how did it matter that I post one a week or more.

Measure for closure

So, what are good measures of success for the year 2017 for me? And what would the year 2018 be measured against. Well, that’s what I have a month to figure out!

PS – This is a thought experiment I am doing to see if I can indeed wield measurements and analytics for improvement. It’s a belief that I have long held close to my heart, now I am putting it to the test. Those who know me would know that I am fundamentally lazy and putting in these measurements as a life practice involves a certain discipline. That is my personal challenge.

Shiny tools don’t make a purpose

Recently, I bought a Fitbit. It’s a fantastic tool. Now, I can rave more about the features and go on and on. However, a friend and a colleague asked me an interesting question.

Has it changed you?
No, it did not.

Before I go on, I have to tell you that I am on the heavier side of the weighing scale. Those of you who know me personally would be surprised at the sudden interest in all things health. Yeah, I roll like that.

It’s not about the Fitbit

Like any other measurement tool, the Fitbit is doing a marvelous job at letting me know certain metrics that I need to care about.

They have even gamified the steps by putting in cute little badges and built in peer support (and also peer pressure) to keep me motivated. All this is good as it should be.

At the core of it, it’s a measurement tool. Just like any of the billion other tools we use in Analytics.

Targets and Measurements

On very similar lines, we as marketers or as businessmen often deploy shiny new tools because we think they will help us do more.

Unfortunately, like me in this case, how many of us forget on defining the purpose?

I implicitly assumed that the Fitbit would automatically by some magic give me the purpose of losing weight and leading a more healthy life. Without this purpose, here’s what would happen —

I will wear it to work, and dutifully report the steps taken and life would go on as usual. Some of the badges would come in as time goes by, and it would not really matter to me if I took 2000 steps a day (which is a walk in the park) or 10000 steps a day (I haven’t achieved this yet).

How would I change, if let’s say I choose to give myself a target of say, 10000 steps a day.

Without Purpose, there’s no Change

I would for one have to make time to walk those 10000 steps. I could try walking in the office or doing a much more rigorous transit than an Uber. However, I would have to commit to making the time for those steps.

Thus, this choice of making a change in my routine should be addressed. At the heart of it, the shiny new tool is not at the center. Yes, you have bought Google Analytics Premium and all of that is great … but that’s not really at the center.

At the center, is the purpose. Has this been defined? Has this been clarified and articulated so that the team knows about this?

A tool doesn’t give us Purpose

It does give us a sense of progress towards our purpose. A Measure of Success, if you will. The shiny new tool that we just acquired is useful, but only as long as we keep the purpose at the center.

As people who know how to use a tool, if we do not understand the purpose, the tool will end up regurgitating meaningless data.

TL;DR — When setting up measures, don’t keep the tool at the center. Keep the purpose at the center. The rest should follow.