Tag Archives: Data

Be Careful What You Measure

Not my legs

You’re making the biggest mistake possible with this, Mike.

So says James, my personal trainer, and he should know: I’ve trusted him with my physical fitness and injury recovery programmes since 2014. Inspired (or egged on) by younger family members, I’ve decided to be able to row 2000m in less than 8 minutes. They can do it in 6 but they’ve a 30 year advantage on me and have much longer legs. James thinks my approach to the challenge is wrong and he’s right.

I’ve been chipping away at my 2k time over the the last few months: 10:10, 10:02, 9:53 (breakthrough, hurrah), 9:30 (encouragement from younger family members), …., and recently 8:51. Then 8:58. Then 9:05. I’ve hit a limit of some kind.

So how are you training for this? asks James. I tell him I’m not, I’m just trying to get faster each time I row 2000m.

You’re not doing anything in between to make yourself a better rower?

I’m not. Mistake. Rookie mistake – which someone whose business is learning should not have made.

It’s so obvious. I’ve been measuring myself against my target and not doing anything to improve. Early gains were me getting used to the test – learning to row – not improving my rowing

James quickly designs a program of interval, cardio and mixed Fartlek training and sends me on my way. He’s good like that. I promise only to measure the 2k weekly.

Of course, driving home I realise the connection to schools. We focus on the test, measuring the outcome, not on measuring the actions that will lead to the outcome.

Lag and Lead Measures
Sean Covey’s 4DX philosophy is an operational-strategic approach to team and organisational success. He says we focus too much on the lag measures – endpoints – things we can’t do anything about once they’ve happened. Like an exam score.

On the other hand there are lead measures. These are different, better and more frequent. Lead scores measure factors that contribute to the goal, before the goal gets measured. Like counting revision sessions and grading them for effectiveness. Or self-monitoring your lessons, grading yourself daily, then using THAT data to spot patterns and improve – instead of obsessing with final pupil scores.

They say you can’t weigh a pig with a ruler. Let me take that further and say if you’re going to try, at least use the ruler to measure how much food it’s eating and how happy it is each day.

And back in school. Don’t obsess about the end point data. Yes it’s important. But more important are the data measuring actions leading up to the goal.

Time for a row. I mean, time to get better at rowing.

Something to think about
What could you measure – quickly, privately and regularly – that would help you improve your performance – and ultimately reach a target?

If you could measure one thing that you currently don’t or can’t what would that be?

What’s the best way to measure a pig?

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