Beyond merely measuring

I recently wrote about an experiment that I was conducting with my approach to information management.Instapaper-logo

The plan was to make sure that at the end of each week I would only keep 10 articles in my Instapaper “bundle”. In the four weeks that I’ve been applying this rule, I have not had to delete any articles. I have been motivated to read the articles rather than saving and deleting them.

On the face of it, this represents a successful outcome. However, the measure masks an issue. To get the number of articles down to 10 by my cut-off point (Sunday evening), I’ve adopted the tactic of reading only the shortest articles. This was not part of the plan.

While this unintended consequence is not a big deal, it indicates a flaw in the way that we are inclined to measure things. Quantity is easy to measure, unlike quality. Process can be counted readily, outcomes are more difficult to assess.

Setting a target is useful, but it needs to be aligned to a clear intention. And, the results of the measuring require (self-) evaluation to determine if the intended outcome has actually been achieved.


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