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Evaluate Progress

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Pamela Busch owns a restaurant in San Francisco. Like everyone else, she felt the pinch of the economic downturn as people stopped going out to eat. She decided to adapt by offering a three-course tasting menu at a set price.

Great. Her desired outcome is to stay in business. She’s accepted the fact that change is needed, thought through her options, created a plan of action, and put her plan in place. What’s next? Paying close attention to whether her plan is getting her the results she wants. Other restaurateurs are lowering prices, closing on Sundays and Mondays, switching to lower end dining. Who’s to say which or which combination will be effective? There are so many factors involved—where the restaurant is, what kind of clientele,  what happens with the economy, luck …You can only know by trying.

Whatever actions you’re taking, evaluation is important, because you don’t know what things are going to get you where you want to go. You’re taking your best guess, but if you don’t stop to evaluate, you won’t know if your guess paid off. This sounds so obvious but I can’t tell you how many individuals and organizations mess up here. They put something into action, assuming it will work, and never stop to analyze whether it actually is. Or they evaluate vaguely—sure, I’m delegating better—but don’t analyze exactly how much and whether it is making a significant enough difference. Or they evaluate months later, rather than checking in a short time frame because they put something in place and feel they’re finished.

Here’s an easy way to think about it. You know what you want—stay in business, lower costs, get a good mentor—but how you’re going to make that happen is in the nature of an experiment. You try something, get a result, evaluate progress, and then readjust if necessary. You don’t give up on the what unless you really have to, but your hows may change many times based on what you learn from your experiment.

Measurements can be things like dollars in and out. Or results such as maintaining customers or the number of ideas your team comes up with and puts into action. Or feedback from others—“yes, we see you making the changes you committed to.” Don’t get in the trap of analyzing time or effort spent—you can spend a lot of time on things that aren’t getting you productive results. Challenge yourself to measure concrete results that matter.

Don’t be tempted to skip this stage. When clients of mine take a new job, I always advise them to ask their boss what results they are going to be evaluated on. Of course you have your own ideas of what’s crucial, but you should at least know what the person who is going to evaluate you thinks. This is especially important when the job is amorphous or long range.

Make sure you are measuring progress and readjusting if necessary.


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