To manage it, measure it...but don't destroy it in the process

To manage it, measure it...but don't destroy it in the process

Tape Measure By dirkjankraan on flickrI’m a big believer in the mindset that you’ve got to measure it to manage it.

If you can’t measure something, its very difficult to manage that ‘something’.  If you want your websites to load faster, you need to know what ‘fast’ means and have something to compare past, present and future measurements too.

You must measure to manage…but I”m not a proponent of measuring every little detail.  I only want to measure what i need to measure (there’s a catch-22 here…do you know what you need to measure?).

I’ve known people / companies to go overboard on their measurements.

Some believe they need to measure their employees time in order to manage their workload properly.  I’ve known companies that have implemented time-tracking projects that require every employee to input their time in 5 minute increments and assign each 5 minute segment to a project cost center.  Those same companies have a hard time getting anything done too.Now…I’m not saying every company that tracks time like this cannot accomplish anything, but i can tell you the ones I worked with didn’t accomplish much.

A recent example

This past week, I went in for a sleep study. My doctor told me that he thought I had sleep apnea due to the way my throat looked.  He said my Uvula looked like it had taken quite the beating…I believe his exact words were “your throat looks like someone uses your uvula for a punching bag”.    So…he setup a sleep study for me.

During one of these sleep studies, a contraption (that’s the scientific word for it I think) is placed on that measures all sorts of things. Heart rate, eye movement, breathing, leg movement, chin movement, etc etc.  Go read more about it here and see what the contraption looks like here after its been placed on you (note: if you can’t tell, that is not me in the photo!).

My sleep study appointment day arrives off I go the sleep center at the appointed time. When I arrive, I’m shown my room and told that the technician will be in shortly to get me all ready for the study.  After a few minutes, a nice tech walks in and begins hooking me up. This process takes about 30 minutes and I end up with wires connected all over my body.

I immediately realize that I’m going to have a tough time sleeping this contraption.  I’m told that I can sleep in whatever position I choose, but they need me to sleep part of the night on my back…which is good because once I got into bed i couldn’t move into any position except for laying flat on my back.

Now…I’m sure I got some sleep that night, but I don’t really feel like I did. I was uncomfortable with all the wires, I was in a strange room and I was being watched via video camera.  Not exactly the most fun I’ve ever had, especially when you have to get up in the middle of the night to go the bathroom (because you are an idiot and drank a bottle of water before bed).  Did I mention that in order to get out of bed you have to call for the tech to come unhook you from the machine and re-hook you when done?  fun times.

My point of all this?  This sleep study was intrusive.  I’m sure there is useful data gathered this way but is it truly the best way to measure the things that need to be measured while a person sleeps?  Perhaps with current technology it is.

But in my case, and in many other people’s cases, the very thing that this sleep study was attempting to measure (sleep) was disrupted.  Was the data gathered that night in the sleep study true data? Is it really an accurate picture of how I sleep?  I don’t know.

But…what I do know is that the process of gathering the data just about destroyed the data.  I barely slept. It took me two days to recover from that night.

Measure it, but don’t destroy it

So my story is just a simple word of caution to everyone.

Sure…measure what you need to measure (again…do you know what you need to measure?).  But don’t destroy what you are measuring by the process of measuring it.

Find the simplest, least intrusive method of measuring what you need and use it.

Do you think the employees entering their time in 5 minute increments like their work? If you need to track their time in five minute increments…perhaps something is wrong with the culture of the organization. If you need to know what your employees are doing all day, ask them.

To manage it, you do need to measure it…but don’t destroy it in the process.

Image Credit: Tape Measure By dirkjankraan on flickr