Friday, January 1, 2010

You Cannot Manage What You Cannot Measure: Tips For Incremental Growth

Early this morning, I read an article by Christine Pilkington entitled, "Writing It Down: The Importance of Forecasting your Blog’s Performance." In the entry, Christine outlines the benefits of documenting measurable forecasts. She explains that by writing forecasts down before hand, one can experience a sense of accomplishment, build historical perspective, and promote action.

Overall, I like Christine's organized approach to clock making. Her process of building reminds me that record keeping is important to growing a successful _________ (fill in the blank). At North Carolina Central University, for example, the team of talented web developers use Scrum as a way to incrementally grow from sprint to sprint. On a daily basis, we review our progress using a burn down chart. Based on the findings, we are able to adapt and address issues quickly.

The secret to incremental growth is to capture what is happening in your life and adjust accordingly. In business, there are numerous options for capturing activity. NCCU Web Services uses Numara Footprints to track tickets. We can clearly see our progress by running a report on recent activity. If, for example, we are not closing tickets in the time alotted, we will see it in the report. Then, as the manager, I will work closely with the team to find a solution.

Tracking Tools
In other areas of my life, I use a number of tools to help me track and measure. Here are a few of those tools.

  • SparkPeople: To record physical activity and food intake. The free web-based tool is easy to use and has helpful real-time reports.

  • Google Analytics: Used to track web page statistics like number of visitors, time on site, pages viewed, keywords, and referrers.

  • Feedburner: Tracks the number of RSS/E-mail subscribers I have on the blog

  • PostRank: Measures the level of engagement I have with readers. While it's not a free service, I find it does a great job catching social media conversations and retweets. For $9 a month, and a 30-day trial, I think you will be pleased with the results. Use the referral code: "grooved-gull"

  • Mint: Follows my financial activities and provides a plethora of tools for setting budgets, tracking expenses, and unusual spending.

  • Google Calendar: Helps keep track of how I spend the day. Because it is a Google product, you know it is also available via your handheld device.  
These are just a few of my favorite tools. In order to make them valuable, I have to continuously put in good information. Forgetting to put in my physical activities or food eaten makes it difficult to manage my weight. With each of these tools, it is easy to look at the big picture or zoom into a finer detail.

Final Thoughts
Tracking is important. In order to build a successful business, increase readership on your blog, lose weight, get out of debt, or stay in control of your time, it is vital that you find a way to do the following:

  • Identify: ways to measure your progress. If you seek to lose weight, keep track of your progress by using a scale, body fat caliper, or measuring tape.

  • Record: updates using one of the aforementioned tools. Record activities along with weight, body fat percentage, and/or inches.

  • Review: your progress daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly to see trends.

  • Adjust: activities to meet desired outcome.

I would love to hear your story about measuring progress. What experiences can you share? What lessons have you learned? Let's talk more in the comment section below.

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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