How Do You Measure Up?

“What gets measured, gets managed.”

Are you familiar with management guru Peter Drucker‘s famous quote? Here’s my version: measurement motivates.

That is, the simple act of paying attention to something inevitably leads to improvement in those areas – and often without noticeable effort. I love this story that Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Workweek and himself a tracking fiend, tells about Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote.

“Phil had tried diets and exercise but it was inconvenient, it took time and he’d always regained the weight. He decided to see if there was a lazier way. He simply weighed himself every morning and created a spreadsheet with a graph in Excel. He had a slope going from where his current weight was, to his ideal weight. The graph also had a maximum allowable weight line and a minimum allowable weight. He would weigh himself and see where he was on that graph.”

Guess what: Phil didn’t consciously try to improve his diet or get more exercise. But the subtle effect of awareness on thousands of tiny subconscious decisions led to him losing between 30 and 50 pounds.

Count Something Interesting

In Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, Atul Gawande writes: “If you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting.”

When he was a resident, he began counting how often surgical patients ended up with an instrument or sponge forgotten inside them. Although it didn’t happen often  – about one in fifteen thousand operations (phew!) – when it did, there were serious ramifications.

With a little more sophisticated tracking, Atul found that the mishaps occurred predominantly in patients undergoing emergency operations that revealed the unexpected (such as cancer when the surgeon had anticipated only appendicitis). This led him to work with some colleagues to come up with a device that could automate the tracking of sponges and instruments.

Measure What’s Important

It’s also important to measure something important — to you. For businesses, it may not necessarily be the bottom line. In Start With Why, Simon Sinek shares the example of Bridgeport Financial founder Christina Harbridge, who wanted to create a different kind of collections agency.

Rather than using the typical harassing tactics, she believed that people would respond positively when treated with respect and integrity. So instead of incenting employees according to the amount of money they collected, she rewarded them based on the number of thank-you notes they sent out. Ultimately, she created a culture that valued and listened to individuals – despite the fact that they owed money.

What are you going to track?

  • Productivity: How often do your team meetings start/end on time?
  • Work-life balance: How often do you leave the office by 6:00 pm?
  • Effectiveness: How many cold calls does it take to make an appointment?
  • Health: How many nights do you sleep eight hours or more?
  • Finances: How much do you spend on legal services?

(In addition to Evernote, here are some other note-taking apps to try.)


  1. Lisa Alessi June 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Thanks for a very thought provoking post. I love your examples and couldn’t agree more. Awareness is the first step and key to changing anything and measurement is the proof to keep it going!

  2. suyg June 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks, Lisa! Interesting, isn’t it, how such a simple shift can be the catalyst for dramatic change over time.

  3. Jeffrey June 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    This is great info. I think it’s crucial to measure results. Thanks for the great content.


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.