What are the scales telling you?

This post is about getting the right feedback and the implications of paying attention to the right (and wrong) measures.

I have a friend (a few, actually) who have stayed slim and in shape for the 20+ years that I have known them. While other people’s weight have gone up over the years, they have stayed pretty much the same shape. That doesn’t change very much based on their diet or exercise. In fact, my best friend once said that his weight might fluctuate 1 kilogram in a year. That is a weekend for me (literally)!

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As someone that can put on weight overnight, it is easy to get pretty frustrated by people like this (and some of you may be feeling that way about now). What I am about to say may offer a useful way to reframe it. The beauty is that the scales tend to reflect behaviour. For people like this, diet and exercise is generally reflected in either positive or negative ways.

How is this good news? There is useful information provided at a point where you can do something with it – continue with or change behaviour. It might be ignored, but it’s still there and available. If, like my slim friends, your weight doesn’t reflect your diet and exercise – your scales are not the most useful feedback. In fact, in spite of exercising and eating poorly, there may be little external indication of the poor health of someone like this if you ignore other sources of feedback.

The point is that the same measure – weight on scales – can be useful or not particularly useful for different people. In the world of organisations, this plays out regularly.

People and organisations often focus only on outcome measures and ignore the process.

This means that it is possible (if you are paying attention to the wrong feedback) that you will not realise that you are getting results despite what you are doing. This is like going to a concert and having a great time despite the main act coming on late, the drinks being overpriced and the toilets being dirty and smelly! It’s generally not because of those things that you have a great time.

In terms of delivering continuously better performance, focusing only on the outcome and not the process also limits your ability to learn and improve the performance in the future.

Let me be clear, performance is ultimately about the outcome and that is important to pay attention to. If you are really keen to deliver sustained high performance, you need to pay attention to both outcome and process.

It’s a bit like the old saying of what gets measured gets done. I prefer to think of it as attention driving action – what you pay attention to will drive the actions that you take.

Here are questions for you to consider:

  1. Are you paying attention to the things that help you improve?

  2. Is it possible that you are getting good results in spite of your actions?

  3. Is it possible that you are getting poor results in spite of your actions?

 
 
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