How else are we going to see our progress? Do you think you can just gauge it? Well good for you, but the rest of us have some real life stuff going on and we can barely make it through the door at night and handle the barrage of crap headed our way let alone GAUGE success!
I am studying my MBA. Learning important theories about leadership, financial principles, models for change, studying accounting principles, and preparing to battle through management statistics. Theories and principles run through my mind. At work I serve as a management analyst where I aid in improving processes. Careful observation of processes reveals that the company could improve operations by simply using simple tools. All my knowledge seems useless when what is needed is for management to collect the right information, track it, report it, and analyze it. No MBA needed, though an understanding of how to lead change will be helpful in trying to break through old patterns of behavior.
The real reason.
One day we had a child, a few years later we had another then hit wash, rinse, and repeat, until we had four. After that we blinked and they started leaving home. In between was a lot of laundry, bills, work, errands, diapers, tears, joy, work, home, cooking, homework, eating, fighting, loving, and everything in between. Along the way we became parents knee deep in the American dream. We were no longer men and women with passions and dreams, but mom and dad trying got keep up with the Jones’s so that we could feel good about our parenting skills.
I wake up now with my planner, calendar, and iPhone full of handy apps. I get to work on my to do list, review my long term goals, and research new ideas. It all works like clock work until my husband messages me and says he can’t take his job anymore and might quit. I live through that moment and try to refocus. Before I hit post on my blog I get a text from my daughter about her next life crisis, a text from another about how she didn’t get her apartment, a FB message from my son about the latest on his life plans, and an email from our younger son about how he needs a new used car. I try to get back to work, but need some time to process it all, and didn’t it all start with my husband saying he is ready to quit his job.
The real reason we have to read these blogs and get an intravenous feed of support is because life is hard and it’s hard to maintain a gauge of how we are doing. It is the reason we need calendars, phone app’s, and constant reminders of what our goals are and how we are progressing in accomplishing them.
Collect the right information
At work they have a goal to improve a process. They document the process and update policies and procedures and then stop. Since the procedure is documented they feel they have done their job, but how do they know that? They need to collect information that will demonstrate how the process is being completed and anything that goes wrong. They need to make a simple visual of the start date of the project, benchmarks, notes, information, contacts, and set a date in the future when they can review the entire process again. Since they do not collect the right information they can only “feel” how things are going not measure how things are going.
Pick a goal. Any goal. Clean the bedroom once a month, lose 20 pounds, exercise more, eat more meals at home, save money, start a side business, or go back to college. Now you need to collect information that will tell you how you are doing in accomplishing these goals. I made a simple spreadsheet for my organization. Someone said is this a Gantt chart? No I am not that good. It’s a simple spreadsheet with color text boxes, rows and columns to denote different projects and provide a timeline. It gives us a basic visual on when a project started and when it ends and prompts the question where are we with this?
If you collect the right data long enough you can compare it to what you have done in the past. At work they have no data on previous projects. Someone just remembers so once they start collecting the right information it will take some time to develop a benchmark they can use for comparison. Same goes for whatever we are trying to do. When I started blogging a couple years ago I spent two days making my own calendars and outfitting a spiral notebook that I could use to record my work history. I got off track for a while and didn’t record anything. Another year went by and the New Year’s resolution stuff reminded me that I needed to get back to taking things seriously. I got a planner out that I wasn’t using and outfitted it to serve my purposes. Now I can compare the two calendars and develop an understanding of how well I have progressed and where I have fallen short.
Every now and then we need to reflect on how life is going. At work we would have a meeting and look at where we were at. I try to spend up to an hour a week in my happy place at home, our library, where I can meditate and reflect on life. There I can dream, record ideas, read, write, and reflect on how things are going. I reassess life and ensure my goals match up with where I still want to go. I look at what needs done to move forward. After my reflection time is over I get to work planning and detailing the how to of everything.
In one of my MBA books, It Starts with One: Changing individuals changes organizations, author J. Stewart Black outlines three types of change that leaders may face including: anticipatory change, reactive change, and crisis change. If we spent some time reflecting on our lives, which is hard when faced with the demands of our daily lives, we might be able to anticipate a need for change such a going back to school, moving, career transition, etc. If we are not strategic in how we spend our time and let life take us away then we may find ourselves reacting to signs that change is needed. There are often signs in our lives that we need to change, but we are too busy to see them and so most of us end up working through crisis change.
Crisis change is good because it helps us to clearly see the need for change and provides the motivation for adopting new behaviors or ways of doing things. Crisis change, however, is the most costly. There is a cost for waiting to react and changing to fit our environment. Not staying on track can cost more than we may be willing to pay and can be avoided by simply collecting information about how we are doing in achieving our goals, measuring that against another point in time, and spending time reassessing where we are and where we want to be.
One day what you want to do later might become something you need to do today. One day when the kids get older we will might become now what. One day you may realize you don’t have the time to do the things you wanted to do. The REAL reason we need calendars, app’s and reminders is because life is crazy and our schedules are nuts and we need something to remind us of what we truly want to accomplish with our lives.