Lessons from a brain break – Careful what you measure

Before you bring out the driver check that distance really matters.

I just took a brain break and had some lunch in front of my TV.  I was watching an old recording of the Haney Project from the Golf Channel.  I like to see world-class coaches in action regardless of their specialty.  At the bottom of the screen was a ticker of top performers on the PGA Tour this year.  The number of people I had never heard of alerted me to the fact that these guys were ranking in the top 10 in certain criteria in their chosen profession yet they were unknown to me, and believe me I watch a reasonable amount of golf.  So I scrolled back and took some notes.

There are seven categories that are measured and they all make some kind of sense that you would measure them:  Average score, driving distance, driving accuracy, total driving, greens in regulation, ball striking and scrambling.  This was preceded by the top 10 in earned money (from prizes not endorsements).

Here are some interesting facts that I noted:

▪  In the 80 available top ten positions, there were no fewer than 47 individuals. That is an average of 1.7 rankings per player.  The most categories that any golfer was in was four. i.e. No-one was great at everything and some were ranked highly in just one area.

▪  Of the top 10 highest earners there were three who had not made the top ten in any of the previous categories. Their average earnings were about 25% under the top performer (Bubba Watson) who had showed in 4 categories but were equal to another top performer (Tiger Woods) who had showed in 4 categories.

▪  Lee Westwood showed in the top ten on four of the categories but not in the top ten in earnings.

▪  There was no correlation between high earnings and high ranking in any of the seven other categories.  Even being in the top ten in lowest average score only gives a 50% chance of being in the top ten earners.

▪  Rory McIlroy was 2nd in earnings yet only showed up in the overall lowest score category.

▪  Only three players who showed up in any of the driving related categories (distance and accuracy) made it into the highest earners thus reinforcing the cliché “Drive for show, putt for dough!”

I can acknowledge that without any further research it is hard to draw any fixed conclusions from this quick survey other than to point out that measuring and managing some variables clearly has little direct impact on overall results.  The statisticians measure not what is important but what they can easily measure.  This leads amateurs like myself to do ridiculous things like count my GIR (Greens in Regulation) on social rounds.  Unthinking copycat that I am I fall into the same trap as the rest of us when we aren’t paying attention.  Copying what others do rather than thinking for ourselves about what is important.

For me what is important in reducing my score would be something that only I can judge like the correctness of my shot selection (regardless of the outcome).  That has far more bearing on my score than my GIR which tempts me to hit longer shots into the green whereas a conservative approach would make an easier up-and-down or certain bogey.  Sorry if I am turning off my non-golfing readers here but the point is simple.  Instead of managing my game I use irrelevant, even harmful measures because THAT’S WHAT OTHER PEOPLE USE!  Let’s face it, any correlation between the game of professional golf and my game is purely coincidental.

But thankfully I am talking about my golf game.  My income and wealth do not depend on my success or otherwise at that.  So my question to you is what are you measuring in your business?  I hope that you measure a number of metrics but now ask yourself, does this metric directly impact my success?  How do I know that for sure?  If it doesn’t actually impact your success you have you fallen victim to the two common errors in metric setting; copying and/or measuring only what it is easy to measure?  Step back and decide FOR YOURSELF what you should be measuring to get a dashboard of success that means if you hit the top ten there you’ll be in the top ten in earnings too.

I hope that this brain break of mine has given you pause for thought and reflection about the measures at play within your business.  If you have any questions (for instance how can you tell if a measurement is critical or not?) then please call me on 604 339 5369 during Pacific Time office hours and I’ll be happy to have a chat with you about this fascinating subject.

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About rupertwhiting
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