I’ve been wearing my pedometer for longer than I’ve been actively tracking the steps. However, for the past month I have been logging my steps as part of the Commuter Challenge Walk Around Ann Arbor through WalkerTracker. Prior to logging my steps I would walk about 2,200 steps a day. Which is what caused me to set a goal of 4,000 steps per day – an admirable goal at about double my normal amount. But a funny thing happened, I started walking WAY MORE than 4,000 steps per day, my current average is now 7,500 steps per day.Â
Nothing in my life had changed that would account for the extra steps. Nothing except the act of measuring.
A year ago I started Weight Watchers to lose some excess pounds. For those unfamiliar with their points method, you track and log each food item that you eat and subtract it from your daily allotment. Â This gives you an on-going tally of how much food you can eat for the day. These are kept in a weekly tally, so you can see how you’re doing going over or staying within the alloted points for an entire week. While I have successfully shed those extra pounds (24 of ’em) over the past year, I continue to monitor and log my daily and weekly points. Why?
The answer lies in the act of measuring and the impact it has on what you are measuring, and specifically on theÂ behavioralÂ impact of measurement.Â By measuring something you inherently focus on it, and improve it, even if the improvement is at a subconscious level.Â
And what happens when you stop measuring those things, having successfully improved them? Don’t they go back to their original sub-optimal state? Why do so many dieters gain back the weight they lost? I venture that one reason is the loss of constant measurement and its impact on behavior.Â
The act of measuring leads to a continuous improvement loop. Â
Hmmm, soÂ isn’t this true for Project Management as well? We improve those things we measure. Whether it is our estimates, our time to complete, the number of hours remaining, the number of tasks to complete. By measuring and tracking we tell our teams what is important to the project and its success. However, when we stop measuring, the items so often go back to their unimproved state.Â
Well, we can’t possibly measure everything all the time! We must chose wisely those items that we want to continuously improve. Which has me thinking more about Kaizen and it’s influence on the cycle of measuring and improving a process or operation. What if projects were thought of as a way to continuously improve the process, rather than just meet that deadline or produce that widget? Wouldn’t the projects be considered far more successful in terms of value to the organization and ROI?Â
Well, I’m up to 3,800 steps for today, I think I’ll go for a walk and think more about project Kaizen. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well. Post your comments to this blog.
Yes, the being thoughtful and recording data/monitoring really heightens my consciousness about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. Examples include recording time in the day on tasks, counting steps, keeping a food journal, any structured, regular attention helps.
I think another interesting aspect of this is the influence of sharing on this attention. I’d argue that it is more than just recording your steps, but the act of sharing them on http://walkertracker.com spurred you to walk farther. Its the same with broadcasting project data by posting it in a visible place. There’s something in the public accountability and the attention of others that “up the ante” for the mind.
At work, we have a saying that there is an “over the shoulder effect” in making things work better. Someone struggling with a website/web form/software sometimes succeeds where they’ve failed when someone else comes to their aid. And the second person doesn’t really have to do anything at all except be there. I think this is why I always know what email I should have sent after I hit “send”. There’s something that opens or changes the mind when another person is involved….even if the other person doesn’t contribute anything verbal. Weird. I think this is part of the magic of pairing.