Tired? Beware the temptation to shortcut

JITSU

Every once in a while jiu jitsu will highlight something for me that is really important for business or personal life with regards to performance.  This past week I was sitting around with a couple of the guys after class and we were talking about how it seems like being tired makes us want to rush through things. In jiu jitsu, you’re trying to work through a sequence of moves to get to some endpoint very much like you might do in a business project or anything else that has a deadline. The guy who brought this up mentioned how he feels like he has a tendency to rush during drills the more tired he gets. So we talked about it for a little bit and I think this is something that happens so often in life it was worth pointing out.

A lot of times when you’re in the middle of a project, you’ve got a deadline looming, you’re under the gun, and you’ve been working late to try to get things accomplished as the project winds towards the close, the tendency or the temptation is to try to skip some steps in order to get things done. Now whether it is trying to go directly from your head to a final project and skipping outlining, drafting, or other steps that you might normally do, or trying to cram down your review process; what I found in life as well as jiu jitsu is that those things have a tendency to set you back more than they help you. You have to really sort of embrace the grind and understand that there really are no short cuts. More often than not attempting to rush through or cut steps out of the process isn’t going to work. It’s simply going to end with either a poor result or in taking more time because you’re going to have to go back and go do the steps that you should have done the first time anyway.  I think that one of the things you have to do if you want to be successful under those conditions is you have to resign yourself or mentally prepare yourself to grind through it. You have to understand that it’s a process and you have to decide for yourself if you’re going to be able to make it through to completion because you’re probably not going to be able to shortcut that routine without the end result suffering.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Rules for creating a constructive 1st draft

First Draft

I want to talk a little bit about what I believe a draft should be. Obviously there’s a lot of latitude in this subject but I think that it’s really important to understand that no matter what you call it, everyone has an understanding of what a successful draft looks like at the end of the day.

Our internal process for idea generating is very team oriented. We may have 3, 4, or even 5 people in a room working on a whiteboard, sheets of paper, or different drawing tools trying to get some concepts out. We may go back and forth, go and work individually, come back share things, and talk about anything that crosses our minds. I consider all those things to be part of the idea generating phase of doing things. The more people the better in many cases as the whole point of what you’re trying to do is come up with a lot of ideas. Then you want to vet those things down to just a few good ones. Once we have it narrowed down I like to hand it off to somebody to take as their own.

I think that when you get to the point where you’ve squeezed the idea sponge until its run dry in the room and you’ve winnowed your brainstorms down into a  more reasonable amount of a few different things that the team believes have legs its then time to hand that off to a person. Ideally I hand it off to one person or maybe just a couple people that work well together if it’s a big project to get a draft together. If it’s a document maybe that means an outline or if it’s a drawing, an architectural artifact, or whatever it is, there should be an accepted form to it.  I believe no matter what that accepted form is there are a couple of rules that people should follow to know when their draft is ready for exposure to others.

  1. The first thing that should happen is your draft should be able to clearly tell the story of whatever the next phase is going to be. For us, that usually means you’re going to go through a few different drafts, you’re going to get some critical inputs and refine things. Even in that first draft there ought to be idea clarity. What I mean by that is that you ought to be able to explain to me why the things that are in there are in there.  There should be a reason for all of the stuff on the page. So that’s number one and if you can’t do that then it’s not draft ready.
  2. It should not enormously deviate from the concepts that were put together by the larger team. If you’re responsible for taking the work product of the group and further developing it into draft form, I think it’s important that you be true to the concepts that were developed in the group.  If you don’t do that then there was almost no point to having that group work done.  If you get into it and find that there’s just too much new information that makes you want to go down a different route, at that point you need to go take it back to the group and vet that with them before you run with it.  I think that’s important because one of the most critical things that you got out of that big group session was consensus around some of the things that are important and needed to be expressed. So if you’re going to greatly deviate from what had been set forth in the brainstorm sessions you need to go back and get buy in even if you’re right. It’s important that you have those preliminary communications otherwise you’re going to end up presenting those ideas to a group of people who have never seen it before. You’re going to have some people, no matter how good your idea is, think that you betrayed the trust of the group by doing that. They’re going to dislike it just for those reasons and maybe a really great idea goes unused because you didn’t have the professional courtesy to express it or validate your new direction with the group.
  3. Finally the third big thing in knowing when something is a draft that it still has to have a certain level of professionalism. Now this is an area where I have gotten a little push back from people before.  They will say, “Hey it’s still a draft and I just want to have things on a page,” but I will tell you that won’t cut it a lot of times. I’m actually not one of these people but for a lot of others if you haven’t hit spell check and you turn a draft over to them, they can’t get beyond the fact that you misspelled a lot of words. It distracts them from the overall concept and so the five minutes it would take to run spell check is worth doing.  The same thing with drawings and things like that.  If you have an incredibly cluttered page where you can’t clearly express why things are working the way they are or why you’ve laid things out the way you have, it’s not ready and it’s not a draft.  I believe draft materials should be sufficiently developed so that they can be sent to somebody via email. They shouldn’t require extensive oral communication to have an outside party understand what you’re trying to get across or I don’t believe that they’re ready to be shared.  If you have to spend a half hour explaining to me the chicken scratch on a torn out sheet of notebook paper it’s not a draft.  It might represent some really great thinking but it needs to have just a little bit more polish.

Now I’m the first person to tell you don’t waste a lot of time making draft materials client ready but there is a certain amount of effort that is required to get something into a state where people can understand it and that is the point.  You want your draft materials to be good enough to convey the point of what you’re trying to accomplish and there are not distractions in them that prevent people from understanding the concepts that you’re trying to put forward.

Now those are my big three things needed for a draft to be completed.  This is to me, what makes something a draft. I think that way too often people don’t put enough thought into or don’t take the time to step through the idea to product phases enough to end up with the type of product that they should. I think a lot of those mistakes occur because people don’t pay attention to detail in the drafting process. So that’s what I believe constitutes a good first draft for any high level document, drawing or any other knowledge work product. I know that other people have great ideas about other things that should be in there but those are the big three that I find myself talking about more than any others.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Getting the most out of your performance management system

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think that performance management and performance management systems should be leveraged by organizations to spur higher performing actions and activities as opposed to just using them as sort of a rear view mirror to understand how you did. I think there are probably many ways to do it but I want to talk a little bit about our approach and kind of what I believe works best for us. When you look at anything you’re trying to improve you have to understand the factors of:

  • What factors drive performance
  • What pieces of information do I need in order to understand how its performing now
  • How it may perform in the future

You need a mechanism to get that information in. You need some type of assessment of those things; a way to surface the information about what’s the state of that information at a given moment in time. So I think I use the term assessment because it signifies what you’re really trying to get at here. You can spend a lot of time talking about metrics, measures, key performance indicators (KPIs), and things like that but I’m just going to use the blanket term assessments. I’m trying to say that what we’re trying to do is understand a specific thing that we’re trying to improve. There may be a lot of informational elements that go into understanding it but that is what that assessment is supposed to help us tease out.  What that should do is give us at a specific point in time a really good understanding of the factors that contribute to success or failure at that given point in time.

Oftentimes you need more than just the state of that particular thing to really understand performance or particularly, if you’re looking at lots of those types of things. If you’re looking at a portfolio I use investments all the time because it’s a pretty easy concept to grasp. A lot of people have 401ks, mutual funds, and things like that and they understand that those things are comprised of lots of smaller investments. It’s performance across all those things that contributes to their eventual financial performance.

If you were to assess your portfolio at a specific point in time, it might be as simple as a statement that you get from the company that manages your portfolio. It’s probably going to tell you a little bit about the individual components of the portfolio that makes up your retirement account and that’s a slice in time view that you get. That is of course dependent on what company you go thru and what level of detail you’ve requested. You may get things all the way down into very detailed financial reporting that’s supposed to be indicative of specific companies that are part of your portfolio and that is great for the day that you receive that information. Unfortunately we all know that a day, a week, a month later, the market is completely different.  Things can change immensely in a very short period of time as we’ve seen several times in the last ten years. Instances where we’ve gone from incredible market performance to extraordinarily disappointing market performance in what seems like the blink of an eye and you know the same is true for any organization. So one of the things you need to keep in mind is context.

For many of the companies that were a part of that portfolio, not a lot of things changed inside some of those companies when the market went south but it certainly affected their performance in the market. This despite the fact that maybe they weren’t a part of the industry segment or market segment that was bringing down the market as a whole. Their performance was affected by it so hopefully that is a way to look at context.

There’s a lot of information that you might need to help you make good decisions that’s maybe not directly related to the status of the particular things that you are trying to measure. If you miss that part of it you’re going to miss a lot of the things that inform your understanding of the assessment and make it so that you can make good decisions.  So I think context is enormously important and often overlooked. You need be looking for the pools of information that help make the information that you’re gathering more meaningful.

The last of the things that I think is really important is real time situational awareness.  It’s great to have that assessment, that in depth understanding of the item, and it’s great to understand the context around it but a lot times being able to translate that into things that improve performance means being able to communicate and collaborate across organizational boundaries; both inside the organization and outside the organization. It means being able to collaborate to use that information to make better decisions in a group or team environment. It means being able to understand that information because you see the changes as they occur. You’ve identified the factors that are important to you and you have a mechanism for ensuring that you become aware when certain thresholds change or when there’s activity on a particular item.  I think that situational awareness piece is also often overlooked and incredibly important.

Now oftentimes the most stressed component of all of the things that I’m talking about is the assessment piece.  You’ll have organizations that will invest enormous amounts of money in a point in time assessment. I’m not saying that those are necessarily a bad thing to do but I think that if you want to drive real long term performance you need to be able to have both. You have to combine that with context and with some type of communication and collaboration capability that allows you to take advantage of all of it. Then I think the final things is the business intelligence component; the piece that rolls all of that together so that you can use all of it in a way that is seamless to your organization.

  • Do you have a way to pull context together, the actual assessment information, and then manipulate, share, and leverage that information across your organization so you can really foster change?

I’m curious how other people manage this. I know it’s a big space with lot of layers in it but I think the value chain that runs from the assessment, to the context, to the communication and collaboration workflow component that enables it are incredibly important as a whole. You really have to think about it as not those individual pieces because that’s how traditionally the vendor community addresses it. They have a piece that addresses how you do assessments. There’s a piece that does communication and collaboration and there’s a piece that helps manage data and does business intelligence across various elements of it. I think it’s really important to figure out how you’re going to work with those as a cohesive whole or to choose things that allow you to work as a cohesive whole across that entire value chain.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Wanted: Correct Solutions delivered compellingly

Wanted Blog

I think that one of the most common mistakes made when delivering a product or deliverable is how easy it is to get so wrapped up in the correctness of the content and meeting the letter of the requirement, that we forget to make things interesting. We forget to take a little bit of time to make our content compelling. As a management consultancy organization, this is a rule that we break all the time. When you break it, you run the risk of not giving your client all the value that they could have had. Now some people will say, “Well you’re just getting paid to provide the answer.” While I think that’s a hundred percent correct, there’s more to it than that.

A lot of times you’re called in to deal with a complex question or an organization is trying to achieve a particular goal. They ask you to come in and look at things so you evaluate a lot of different factors to come up with a result. In theory, it shouldn’t have to be compelling it should just have to be right. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. It doesn’t just have to be the right idea. In a lot of cases, particularly in very large organizations, it has to win in the marketplace of ideas because a lot of times you’re not the only group that’s working on the problem. Now you may be the only group working on the problem from any particular angle but large organizations pain points oftentimes get addressed not just by one group, but multiple groups. Multiple groups will recognize the pain points and they’re all attempting solutions to address it from their particular angle. Oftentimes with the assumption that if they’re the ones that address it, they’ll be able to avoid a certain amount of organizational pain. This by virtue of being able to have crafted the solution. So I think it’s really important to look at things and go, “I need this to not only give the right answers, but I need it to be something that people will read the entire report through.”

You need to put things into the reports that will make it interesting to people that are notonly cutting fat, cut and dry, just the facts man type of people, but also to people that need to be pulled through a document. Those people need some visual cues. Maybe they need some facts and statistics that make it more relevant to them. Things that make it personal. In order to do this you need to know enough about whose going to being reading or seeing your report or presentation to make it compelling to them. Those are questions that need to get answered just as much as whatever the evaluation, assessment or particular problem is that you’re trying to address.  One of the things we’ve done more and more is utilize things like info graphics. I’ve included an example here.

This info graphic was developed to help us with a report we’ve been working on with a bunch of schools to address school safety issues. This was meant to spur action. There’s a lot of data that gets collected through the ExAM for schools process and we want people to go through and really take a hard look at those things. So we set up this info graphic with that goal in mind. Obviously we’ve got other things that we do throughout a full report but it’s meant to drive people to work through it by setting up the idea that it’s very important that they do so.

I’m actually very interested in feedback on the info graphic itself as well as the idea that you need to cater to people that might not go through an entire report that you deliver just because it’s not interesting. I know that a lot of people come from sort of the old school belief that people should do it because they believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s their job, etc. but that isn’t the case across the board. While those people are going to do it whether I make it interesting or not, it’s also really important you make the people that might otherwise only be casually interested to make it through it as well.  So if it was important enough for someone to engage you to do something, then it’s probably worth it on your side to make it as compelling as possible.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Alternative Tools for Creative Problems

I was thinking the other day about how I’ve really, over time, changed the way that I develop the different things that I’m trying to communicate. Whether it’s through the web, in a presentation, report, or whatever it is, I’ve developed specific tools for specific things. So I thought I’d share a little bit of that with folks. Now I know that as a Mac guy some of these tools are not necessarily available on the PC but if I happen to know a PC equivalent I’ll pass that along. Unfortunately I’ve become a bit of a Mac cripple and so I apologize in advance for those of you that are living in the PC world and are wondering that OmniGraffle was. Maybe that is a good place to start.

Over the years I‘ve started to use PowerPoint less and less. So many people have an axe to grind about PowerPoint and PowerPoint presentations. Either they come down on the side that it doesn’t convey enough information or people have started going to 70 slide PowerPoint decks. There are all these reasons people hate PowerPoint but the biggest thing that I don’t like about PowerPoint is the template driven nature.  I feel that not being able to start with a clean slate so to speak puts unnecessary boundaries on how you think. I know that because it’s so template driven they’ve got a lot of nice things that allow you to make things quickly. The SmartArt has gotten really good. There’s a lot of flexibility to it but I think on some level, it kind of constrains your thinking. As a result, I’ve gone to OmniGraffle to make presentations. (Probably the closest PC equivalent to OmniGraffle is Visio.)

OmniGraffle is a nice drawing tool that has a lot of stencils available from a lot of different makers. This helps you with the ability to create things quickly because there’s a lot of these ready-made tools but there’s a much broader stencil set that you can pull from. There’s also no sort of constraining template that you’re bound by. Now sometimes that can have a little bit of a downside because a blank sheet of paper can be intimidating but that’s why I think one of the most underutilized productivity tools today is the pen and paper or the whiteboard.

I so often start with pen, paper, and a doodle before I touch any other tool because I think that when you get in and you’re using your productivity tools on your PC, there’s a sense of permanence in it.  You don’t want to un-build things that you built once you’ve gone through the trouble of drawing a bunch of lines, grouping them, sending things to the back, and moving things forward so on. You don’t want to break anything. Whereas with a pen and paper, you just scratch things out and spend another three minutes hacking something new together. I think sometimes, especially at the beginning of the creative process, being able to throw things away is important because you’re going to have a lot of bad ideas before you have a good ones. At least, that’s what I’ve found. Your mileage may vary there. I know there are a lot of sharper people than me out there and so it might be that you’re able to knock things out without the number of iterations that I have to go through. I personally find that the easier I make it for myself to throw something away the better the final project is because instead of trying to take something that is halfway there and make it work, I can start over. So a lot of times my process will be pen and paper, or whiteboard if I’m working with a group, and then I’ll take it into Omnigraffle.

If we’re developing a website for somebody, I love Balsamiq.  Balsamiq you can use on the web, you can use it on a PC, or you can use it on a Mac and it allows you to frame things up really quickly. It’s a lot of sort of black and white fuzzy lines and it has the feeling of pen and paper but it allows you to do drill throughs and mimic web activities a little bit better. It’s really good for developing things quickly when you’re working with a client or a group to develop out websites and things like that. I’ve even used it a lot of times when we’re developing reports for people, business intelligence type things. I’ll go in and quickly put something together and mark it up. It allows people to get the idea of what I’m doing without having the focus in on colors and line thickness for the most part.  It really gets people to focus in on the informational elements, the content, and the placement which is incredibly important.  So that is another great tool for rapid prototyping and I really believe in it.

Finally, for graphics development I’m an Adobe guy.  Fireworks is something that I have used for a really long time. It’s just so accessible for people who may not be big graphics people but they need to be able to put together nice looking visual elements quickly without being a pro. Fireworks is a great solution. It’s also a lot cheaper than Photoshop. Adobe currently has a great offering right now which is Adobe Creative Cloud. With this you get access for $50 a month to all of their Creative Cloud offerings. I’ve actually gotten to where I use quite a bit more than just Fireworks but Fireworks has been something that I’ve always liked. It’s especially useful when you’re working with outside designers and you just want to tweak something up really quick. You can take and pull in whatever really advanced thing they’ve done and add in your little tagline, bit of text, or change a color without having to get down into 50 different menus to do it. That’s kind of the final piece of the puzzle for me. That’s where I’ll use Fireworks to pull together a couple of graphical elements and then drop them into OmniGraffle for my presentation or whatever it is.

So those are what I’m using for creative work for our clients. When we’re building info graphics and things like that we use a combination of OmniGraffle, Fireworks, and then oftentimes we’ll do the chart in in Excel or things like that. Then we bring it into Fireworks so that the graphics, the charts or whatever it is, really pops.  So hope that was useful for people and I’m curious if anyone else has any helpful alternative tools they use for creative problems.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Fighter food: Getting fit for better personal and professional performance

Flinstone fighter food

Paleo: The “caveman” diet

Today I’m going to step outside my normal blog topics and talk a little bit about health, nutrition and some of the things that I’ve been doing that I believe have led to better personal and professional performance across the board. The last few years I’ve really been stepping up my exercise quite a bit.  I had gotten to a point where I was hovering right at 299 pounds. I had basically stopped weighing myself until I was pretty sure that the next time I did, I wasn’t going to be over 300 pounds.  Now I realize the signal probably should have come a little bit earlier but when I hit 299, I realized I really needed to do something. Even though I’m pretty tall and I’ve got a pretty big frame, there’s just no way that I should be 300 pounds. So I got involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and immediately shaved off 25 pounds and got down to about 275 pounds.

I started feeling a lot better and like I was in pretty good shape.  I was still about ten pounds off the weight I played ball in college at, but I still felt pretty good. So I was content for a little bit. That was until I had an instructor in the jiu jitsu program, Greg Souders, that pushed me and a couple of the other big guys to lose some weight with the idea that we would feel better and we would enjoy our exercise and sport a little bit more. So we had a competition. It’s amazing how making something a competition will push you to try new things and push you to break down barriers.

It was then that I actually started to follow a paleo eating program.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I won’t go into too much detail but the paleo sort of lifestyle involves giving up a lot of things that I had really come to love. In fact, for about the last 7 or 8 months I’ve essentially been grain free, bread free no pastas, no milk, no dairy, and nothing with sugar added. It has been amazing the transformation, in not just how I look but how I feel.

I’m now down into the 240’s, which is where I was as a senior in high school. I feel absolutely tremendous and I think it carries over into my work.  I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can excuse any type of meal.  I used to drink a lot of lattes, I had a lot of high carb snacky type meals, a lot of, “Oh I’ll just catch a sandwich for lunch,” and it had become a habit over so many years working in such a high paced environment. It had become such a habit to the point where I actually thought I was eating fairly healthy. Looking back on it, I was eating terribly.

Now I have lunches that are salads, big hearty salads, but salads nonetheless. They can have steak on them, chicken, shrimp, whatever type of proteins you want including bacon. I also eat a lot more plain vegetables and a lot more meats that aren’t wrapped in grains. One thing that I’ve really noticed is that when I miss a meal, I don’t get the type of cravings that I used to get when I was on the more industrial based food diet.  While all of this is for the better, I think the one thing that has really driven me to stick with it has been that it’s not just that I lost this weight and I look better. It’s the whole feeling better at work and home all the time part that has really made this change worthwhile and enjoyable.

One of the things I thought I’d do is share a recipe. This recipe has been sort of what I’ve used to put in the lunchbox to take to work throughout the week. Despite how it may sound, it is extraordinarily tasty and my kids actually call it “fighter food” and they’ll eat it. This dish gets made every Sunday to make lunch for the rest of the week.  It is as follows:

  • 6 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 pounds of kielbasa,
  • 3 or 4 beets
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppers
  • a bunch of carrots
  • curry powder
  • cayenne peppers
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

I cook up the sausage and beef in a pan first.  Then I put all the rest of the ingredients into the crockpot along with the meat and let it stew for about two hours. (Side note: I leave out the cayenne peppers when cooking for the whole family and use it solely for my own personal stash of fighter food.  While I enjoy spicy foods I realize not everyone feels the same.) That is all there is to it. It’s a very easy dish to cook up and it keeps well for a whole week’s worth of lunches. Anyway I know this was a little bit of an off topic blog post but I really do think how you feel is a big proponent to how you perform at the office. So I wanted to share something that I think has really worked for me. With this combination of exercise and diet over the last year, I’ve dropped more than 50 pounds and I really feel good. I think it has led to better performance. So I would love to hear your responses and please don’t feel as though you’re obligated to try my meal, although if you do I’d love to get your feedback on it. Thanks for reading as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Assessments: Dealing with information overload

May 28th Blog

I was thinking the other day about how much of our lives really revolve around assessments.  Almost from your first days in schools, you’re being assessed.  I have a daughter that is in kindergarten and one of the first in depth meetings that I had with her teacher was about an assessment of her. We covered how she was performing in comparison to other kids within the school, the state, and the nation.  The idea behind this assessment was to provide us a feedback mechanism to help us understand where she is and where she wants to go. These assessments continue essentially throughout the rest of your school years.

Once you leave there you get into the work world where your assessments continue whether that be annually, quarterly or whatever their basis is. If you really think about your life, you are surrounded by assessments, for example, checklists. Checklists are essentially reminders of what you need/want to do but if you measure them, they are an assessment of what you have done. These assessments are everywhere in your life. It’s especially seen in governments lately. Legislation has come down that tries to understand and manage better our government resources.  In order to understand that we have to use assessments to see how they are being used now and then analyze them to see how they could be used better.

There are some things that you don’t necessarily see as assessments but they are embedded in there if you look close enough. PortfolioStat is something that was intended to assess an organization’s large investments. You can use it to ensure that if they were going poorly that either corrective action was taken or there was the opportunity to cut them off before they bled into everything else.  Now something that I hear a lot of in both the public and private sector is a need for some sort of form strategy. We’ve got all these forms that we use to assess things by but they aren’t being utilized to the best of their abilities. It’s important to remember that the forms themselves aren’t the purpose. They are simply collections of information. The purpose in many cases of those forms is to assess something. It’s to understand a particular thing, whether it’s an application for a permit you’re trying to get or maybe it’s a person’s application for a job that’s assessing them in the context of what the requirements are. All of those things are talked about as forms but really, they’re assessments.

Now the reason I’m bringing this up is to get back to the idea about what information should I be managing? You have to realize there’s a cost to everything. I think that when you look at it in terms of assessments rather than forms, it makes you think about why do I need this information rather than focusing on automating the information that you currently have.  It’s a really important distinction because automating it may reduce the cost to gather it but it won’t reduce it as much as not gathering it if you don’t need it. It still takes time.  Even the most automated system out there won’t help you because if you don’t need that information for something, than don’t gather and it don’t assess it.  You don’t need to further clutter your informational picture.

I think so many of us function in a daily information overload state. There’s so much that comes at us. It can get really hard to discern what are the important things.  Anyway I think that if you start to think about the why behind the information that you’re trying to gather, you’ll do a much better job of choosing the things that you spend time from an informational standpoint gathering, managing, and performing analysis on. You’ll also reduce cost by a function of that. So I think assessments are something that need more of a conceptual approach to information gathering than anything else. You start to think about them as “I’m getting this information for this specific reason,” rather than “This is the body of information I need to collect because I’ve always collected it,” I think you’ll be more cost efficient and more useful.  I’m curious what other people think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

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