“Today I weighed myself. I don’t know why? I’m not using the information. It’s not guiding my behavior. Why am I bothering to find out exactly how much of a piece of shit I am?”
– Louis C.K., Chewed Up
The comedian Louis C.K. is known for his brutal honesty. Most people are not. Most companies are not.
I know Louis can be raw and harshly honest, it’s what has gotten him into trouble a number of times, but I selected this quote for its harshness. Because, when we first start measuring ourselves, the result is often self-inflicted mental wounds. Our view of the world, and the ego that created it, collides with reality. That’s the point. We want that collision. It’s the catalyst for change.
To quote Louis again, “Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments. When you let yourself be sad, your body has antibodies. It has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness.”
While Louis might not be taking any action (yet) when weighing himself, he is being honest with himself. The name-calling is not necessary but the critical self-reflection is.
If we are not pointing out where we, as individuals or a company, are falling short, we don’t have the opportunity to improve and grow. Yes, let’s celebrate the successes, double down on them where we can; but we can’t shy away from the areas we are falling short.
We are a world drowning in data but starving for honesty and action–real honesty and real action. The kind of honesty that scares us, that brings our ego crashing to the ground and back to reality.
Data is so valuable because it allows for informed decision-making and action. If we are not making decisions and acting on the data, we must call ourselves out. We must question why we step on the scale at all.
P.S. This is being written during a project I’m leading that is falling short of its goals. We are making progress, but not as big or as fast as we planned. The data is not pretty, but we keep stepping on the scale, taking action and then repeating. It’s not guess work, it’s the scientific process and it’s never ending – but it’s working.
For those just getting started, here’s a framework we are using:
- Deciding what to measure
We manage what we measure, that is a double-edged sword. We will focus on our weight if the scale provides our only data point. And that pesky ego will try to protect itself, tilting the field in its favor. So, triangulate; measure weight, mile-pace over five miles and pullups.
Translated into business, try measuring sales, budget and brand loyalty.
- Measure regularly and share the results
Step on the scale every day. So, we went out drinking and had a couple late night slices; let’s step on the scale. We’ve been on the road, sitting on planes and in meeting rooms; let’s measure our mile-pace. No judgement, just evaluation, simply seeing a snapshot of what is.
Translated into business; start a weekly meeting to review the data, then slowly open the meeting to everyone to remove the stigma of evaluating performance and make improvement a team effort.
There is never an expectation that we will get it right on the first try. The scale will not always move linearly in the direction we want. We will need to change when we workout, or the routine itself, trying to find what works best for us personally. Those are data points that will give us a trend over time, guiding our daily activities and decisions.
Translated into business; experiment. A/B test to evaluate two paths at once, allowing your customers to decide what works best. Talk to your customers to add qualitative insights to your quantitative data. Follow what’s working by attempting the same principles elsewhere. Then repeat.
Also published on Medium.