There’s an old adage that says the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Businesses consistently set goals and inconsistently achieve them. They want to walk a thousand miles by the end of Q2 and know that it begins with a single step. Along the way, they set waypoints as check-ins to understand macro-level progress of goal achievement. For highly sophisticated companies, even more, things directly attributing to this journey are tracked. They outfit their ‘walker’ with the best shoes, a walking coach, and a pedometer to track every step along the way.
With all of that investment, you would expect the ‘walker’ to achieve their thousand-mile journey every time or at least understand why they didn’t. Except they don’t.
Something’s missing. It’s the root of success, failure, and the spectrum in-between. It’s the thing we all want more of and can’t buy. It’s time.
And to be more precise, it’s about the indirect measure of time against a baseline built around a preconceived construct of achievement. It’s not a function of micromanaging the amount of time it takes to complete a step. It’s about understanding what deviation is causing this perceived degradation in performance.
Think about it like this. Say you and your walker both agreed they would be 500 miles in by the end of Q1, but they’re only 300 miles in. They say they’re “busy,” and you say they need to work harder. As a manager, you have no data around what “I’m busy” means, but it drives you nuts. News flash, odds are your walker is being driven nuts too. All they’re trying to do is walk, but they can’t quantify the obstacles in the way.
These conversations are had all over the world every day.
The simple reality is that goals are great, but results are better. In the absence of data, you use opinion, which is biased by definition and is ineffective. The question is, what can the right data tell you about the journey?
Some say there is no substitute for hard work and that hard work creates results. Well, time applied without distraction is the definition of hard work. The silent goal killer in businesses is context switching. For example, you needed to walk a mile today, but you were just called into three meetings nearly back to back that you’re told are mission-critical to the business. Instead of walking, you had to attend these meetings. After leaving two, you thought to yourself, “This could’ve been an email.” And just like that, you slip further and further away from goal obtainment. It has nothing to do with effort and everything to do with time.
Would you be shocked to find out that individual contributors who spend less than 10% of their time in internal meetings achieve their goals 3x more consistently than their peers? ← This is a complete hypothesis, but without data, there are no insights.
To be a great leader, you need to have a full understanding. The way to get that understanding is with data. Start thinking more critically about how time impacts your team and get everyone walking in the right direction.