Needles you can’t move with your hand

What do you want? Great, go get it. Tomorrow, maybe.

This is better advice for some things than others. To use a trivial example, say you’re part of a business that involves selling directly to clients. And your goal is to grow sales by X% this year. Well, you can’t reach out and directly move the dial on how much product the company has sold. What you can do is make more sales calls. Just remember: what ultimately matters isn’t the number of calls but the annual sales.

Lead & Lag measures

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (great pdf summary here) calls this distinction “lead measures” vs “lag measures”. Lead measures are the ones that you can influence directly, in the short term. They tend to be relatively “instrumental“—not things you want intrinsically, so much as things you want because they help you get things you do want intrinstically. The lead measures that you choose for a given situation represent a belief you have about the best way to influence the lag measure. For the most part, you’d happily choose a different lead measure if you thought that’s what could get you closer to the goal.

Briefly, some examples that follow this pattern:

  • # of pushups done is a lead measure… max # of pushups you can do is a lag measure
  • caloric intake or other dietary numbers are lead measures… your weight / health is usually relatively laggy
  • hours studied is a lead measure… grades are a lag measure
  • number of people messaged on okcupid is a lead measure… actually getting dates or a relationship is a lag measure
  • » read the rest of this entry »

A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm trying to figure out how humans work so I can help make humanity work. More about me.

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