Stuck indoors in Atlanta for July 4th because of our seemingly never ending rain, I distracted myself by watching a Great American Sporting Event — The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. The winner once again (7 times in a row!) was Joey “Jaws” Chestnut besting his own record with 69 dogs (20,010 calories for those of you counting them). During the ESPN broadcast one of the announcers said “it all comes down to DPM – Dogs Per Minute”. Really? This got me thinking about metrics.
In business, as in sports, we’re obsessed with metrics — but is “your” DPM really the right thing for you to be measuring?
I’m easily frustrated with entrepreneurs and leaders that quote metrics (and scores against metrics) that mean absolutely nothing to me (and should mean absolutely nothing to them). Sure — it’s a number — but does it really signify anything that really matters? If there’s any truth to the business adage of “you manage what you measure” then measuring the wrong thing will surely lead to managing the wrong thing and drawing the wrong conclusions.
Let’s discuss this a little more…..
I think of the world of business performance in terms of “gaining on it” and “achieving success”.
“Gaining on it” is all about milestones and momentum. Are we moving in the right direction? Are we passing the markers (milestones) that we need to see on the path to real success? Are we seeing less of the bad results we want to eliminate? These metrics are necessary to motivate your team when you’re out chasing big hairy goals — but they mostly signify “getting better” or “sucks less” — not the next necessary end-state of existence.
“Achieving success” is about accomplishment. Setting out to do something extraordinary that, when achieved, sets your organization apart from all others — and positions you and your team transformatively to now pursue the next set of even bigger, hairier goals.
Making it to base camp at Mt Everest is a milestone. Surviving a successful summit of Mt Everest and returning to base camp to talk about it is an accomplishment. See the difference? I’d argue that even reaching the summit isn’t THE achievement — you have to touch the top and survive the climb back down to really grab the brass ring of accomplishment.
Both kinds of metrics are important — but milestone metrics only mark your path or measure your pace — achievement metrics measure your success. Make sure your really think about your own business DPM.