Metrics and Behavior

I received a Fitbit for Christmas, I’ve been using it all week, and it’s changed my behavior. For some background, efficiency is a hobby of mine. Some examples:

When traveling, I put a good deal of thought into how I might pack the minimal amount, so that I may come home having used everything I’ve packed.

When building Legos with my son and daughter, I can’t stomach the idea of using two pieces when one will do.

When cooking, I will plan the meal to minimize pans and mess.

Maybe all this is compulsive, but I think it’s more a hobby — I enjoy doing it in the same way that I enjoy solving a math problem.

My hobby also influences the way I get ready in the morning. Prior to the Fitbit, I would think about what I needed to do upstairs in the bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room before heading downstairs for breakfast and departure. If, after descending, I forgot something upstairs, I’d jokingly chastise myself as I hustled up the steps to retrieve it. In my mind, climbing back up the stairs was a little mistake in my calculation.

The Fitbit has changed that.

I’m tracking two metrics with the little doodad: steps taken and floors climbed. In only a week, my focus has shifted from efficiency to my metrics. This morning, I climbed the steps nine times before leaving the house. I’m actually seeking out excuses to climb steps or walk somewhere.

In the case of the Fitbit, given the fitness objectives embedded in the metrics, I’m perfectly cool displacing my efficiency focus with a focus on steps taken and floors climbed. But as I walked to work this morning (in the drizzle — gotta maximize steps), I reflected on where in our business we might be tracking metrics that don’t reflect our actual goals.

Even without incentives tied to the metrics, the mere tracking of them influences behavior. So be careful when deciding what metrics you talk about on a daily basis. Do you really want to focus on calls if you are more interested in qualified opportunities? Do you really want to focus on revenue if you are more interested in gross profit? Do you really want to focus on the time required to resolve support requests if you are really interested in your clients’ satisfaction?

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