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Posted: September 07, 2012

How high is high?

You shouldn't measure everything

Todd Ordal

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!” I lived much of my life believing this and in some measure (no pun intended), I still do.

Much of what we do in business can be measured, and if you can measure it, you can watch trends, look for problems, experiment with new ways of doing things and track progress. However, sometimes rather than looking for X percent improvement, we need to “do our best” and see what happens.

Psychologist and author Alan Weiss said:

“Every day I wake up happy. The last thing I want to do is measure my happiness. My goodness, the last thing I want to do is say, ‘I’m really happy today, but I’m not as happy as I was yesterday.’ That’s going to ruin my whole day. I have the potential to be even happier every day, so I don’t really measure my life. I think it’s for other people to measure. I think it’s for other people to say, ‘Here is how this guy helped me.’ ‘Here is the difference this guy made.’ ‘Here is what a pain in the ass he is.’ That’s fine. But I don’t measure my life. I just lead my life, and I do my best to enjoy myself and be productive because if I do that well, then I help others enjoy themselves and be productive.”

The same approach can be used in business. What if you went to work tomorrow and rather than focusing on shaving 2 percent off of payroll, or adding 1 percent to your gross margin, or increasing on-time performance by 3 percent you asked, “How could we significantly improve this?” My experience is that you can sometimes get some great results that are way beyond incremental improvement by asking how you can move in a direction, but not limit the distance.

At the gym today, I watched a woman blow through her personal best in the dead lift because she put some plates on the bar that she hadn’t accounted for. Had she been paying attention, I guarantee you that she might have bested her record by 5 pounds, but not 30!

How high is high? What is good? I am not suggesting that you quit measuring everything in your business. To the contrary, my experience is that not enough is measured. However, when you are on your next bike ride and are still having fun at the distance you wanted to cover, keep going! Sometimes doing your best is the best way to success.

If the public companies that I work with tried to measure their effectiveness, management prowess or customer satisfaction by the daily swings in their stock price, they’d be bonkers! Sometimes you have to trust your gut—at least for the short term. Apple knew that the iPhone was ready for release when they thought it was “beautiful,” not a 9.3.
 

Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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