Sunday, April 18, 2021

Life Lately: Why You Need Input Metrics

A highlight of this week was beating Liverpool over two legs to advance to the UCL semi-finals. The picture on the left is from the home dugout at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Early in 2019, I became convinced I was overweight. I had gotten into the habit of recording my weight daily and I had watched the line trend upwards for months. So, like I had done before, I set a specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goal to lose about 10kg over the next few months. My plan was to create a calorie deficit, but I did not immediately define that in further detail.

Well, nothing changed over the next few months. I began eating less and exercising more, by a vague and varying amount, but that line tracking my weight continued to inch upwards. And then a chance conversation with Ehis helped unlock an insight I was aware of professionally but rarely applied in my personal life.

You see, I was very focused on my weight, an output metric. Short of starving myself for a few days, I had little ability to directly control the number on the scale. My weight was a function of many other things. To achieve this ‘SMART’ goal, I needed to measure, track, and optimize my calorie deficit, i.e. increase the calories I expended relative to the calories I ingested. Those were both controllable input metrics. For example, on any given day, I could choose to eat half a sandwich rather than a full one, get off one tube stop before mine to add ten minutes to my walk home, or go running. Over time, that would add up and reflect in a lower weight.

And this did the trick! Five months later I had achieved my target weight, and more importantly, I have stayed around my target weight for about two years now.

This works professionally and personally. Output metrics – things like weight, revenue, profit – are important, but they generally can’t be directly manipulated in a sustainable manner over the long term. Input metrics provide guidance and keep you on track, measuring things that when done right, bring about the desired results in your output metrics. In Donald Wheeler’s Understanding Variation, he writes:

“Before you can improve any system … you must understand how the inputs affect the outputs of the system. You must be able to change the inputs (and possibly) the system in order to achieve the desired results”.

As you reflect on those personal or professional goals you’re working towards, are you tracking the right input metrics?


What I’m currently reading: Working Backwards (Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon) by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. I’m halfway through the book and really loving it! After long and successful Amazon careers, Colin and Bill have written about some of the crucial principles and process that make Amazon what it is. The book is well-written and they have described the principles and processes in enough detail for other companies and entrepreneurs to be able to reapply them if they would like.

What I’m currently listening to: What a Beautiful Name, by Hillsong Worship. This song is beautiful and emphasizes the promise of salvation through Jesus. I’m also enjoying Cultural Praise by KCee & Okwesili Eze Group. Many of the songs (Eastern Nigerian worship songs) on the album are songs we sang often in church when I was younger (we had a lovely praise leader from Eastern Nigeria) and the album brings back such beautiful memories.

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