Monthly Archives: March 2013

How Many Things Can You Measure?

They say that you get what you measure in an organization. You can also measure just about everything. So, how many measurements should we focus on?

When putting together business cases as a product manager, we could include a hundred metrics: from sales by customer to material costs. However, only two things mattered in deciding if it was a go or a no go: Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and Net Present Value (NPV). It was easy to compare investment opportunities when you only had to compare 2 metrics, as opposed to the 100 or so things that contributed to those metrics.

In the 4 Disciplines of Execution ( Chris McChesney says that there are diminishing returns when an organization focuses on more than three goals. I don’t know if McChesney’s research is scientifically valid, but it aligns with my personal experience.

So, how many goals do you have? Do you have too many goals upon which to practically focus?

If you have too many goals for practical pursuit at the moment, which are the most important ones? Can some of the less important goals be the subject of focus after having achieved the most important goals?

Ownership of a Strategy

A while back I was sitting in a meeting with a team of managers who had some of the best looking strategic plans that I had seen. The plans consisted of a thorough analysis of the situation, a clear SWOT analysis, well-defined goals and a set of actions that looked like they were (at least) a pretty good way to get from the current situation to the goals while avoiding identified pitfalls.

I asked two authors of the plans if they are following them.

They answered that they were not following them, and that they only provided the plans because their supervisors had asked for them. Ooops. The supervisors were in the room with the authors. A point was communicated to all of us.

Which would result in better use of planning time:

  1. a plan that has one line item that is critically important to achieving the Vision, that people subsequently work to implement over the planning period, or
  2. a perfect looking plan with all the right analysis, objectives and action steps that is subsequently not implemented?

How can we ensure ownership of plans by the people who are due to implement them? Please feel free to comment with answers to this question.

Strategic vs. Important

Many things can be important, but only one thing can be strategic.

The word “strategic” seems to have become a euphemism for “the thing that I want to do and I want you to consider as important so that we can agree that I can go ahead and do it”. An example of this is “attending this conference is strategic”. Another might be “we had a strategic meeting”.

Strategy is the path forward that is identified as being the best thing to do to get from where we are now to where we want to go after all of the alternative have been considered. While attending a conference or having had a really productive meeting might have been determined to be the best way to achieve your end goal, would the best way to describe them be “strategic”.

The only way that I bring this up is because, if the word “strategic” is diluted by improper use, then our ability to help field teams truly lead strategically (as defined earlier in this blog) is just going to be harder.

I’d love to get your comments on this, unless you are one of those spammers who seem to think that my posts are very insightful.