How do we improve? How do we go from good to great? Or for that matter how to we progress from beginner to master?
Part of the secret of success I believe lies in good management of our scorekeeping.
Good scorekeeping, when done regularly and appropriately creates positive feedback loops.
A feedback loop is when you do something, look at the results and then adjust your behaviour to suit. It’s a virtuous circle of trial and failure, a series of iterative improvements over time. A good, well managed feedback loop will, over time, result in better performance, that means a better product, a better service and a better business.
Many of us already use feedback loops. Enterpreneurs learn from experience, ‘fail fast’ they say, while ‘lean’ startups try ‘experiments’ to discover their market. Sports professionals are past masters at using feedback loops to get an extra yard or their competitors.
But scorekeeping is tricky. Most of us are pretty haphazard at it. We check our stats ‘from time to time’ which in practice is rarely! We might have a vague idea of our key performance indicators (I think I have about 1300 followers on Twitter now) but we don’t know the details (Did I gain or lose 10 last week?).
We don’t keep score because we don’t have a game plan, we don’t think of it like a game. As soon as we start thinking of it more like a game then we naturally keep better score.
Think of your management scorekeeping like a game and you’ll find you get a lot more interested in it! You may even be able to interest your colleagues.
When scorekeeping I have some basic rules of thumb that might help you in your own scorekeeping initiatives:
- Only analyse what you plan to optimize – this makes sense, there’s no point collecting vast amounts of scores if you’re not going to use it. Many people collect raw data in the hope that they will use it at some point in the future. I think this is a nice excuse for not thinking about your activities properly in advance.
- If you’re going change something but not measure the results then don’t bother changing – this is about conserving your resources but also about highlighting the importance of measurement. There’s no point making a change if you aren’t going to see whether it worked or not. When scorekeeping, decide what success looks like and keep track of the score till you get there.
- Change one thing at a time (James Dyson, Inventor) – this is a great piece of advice, if you change two things in one go and you get a better result you don’t know for sure which was the beneficial change. It might be that both were positive but it might also be that one was positive and the other negative, but the positive impact outweighed the negative impact. Unless you make one change at a time you’ll never know.
For scorekeepers this means keeping the game simple, don’t try and achieve several objectives in one go.
- If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it (IBM maxim) – measurement is at the heart of any effective business activity. Many activities do have measures but not all will be a simple single indicator. For activities that don’t have measures then consider creating one or using sampling to discover the results (customer satisfaction surveys for example).
- Intended results spring from intentional action. This is about the importance of planning. Unless you have an action plan you won’t get where you want to go.When scorekeeping you need to set out where you need to get to – I’m keeping score till I reach 100 sales this quarter.
- View your scores in the context of a ‘game’ or league. This usually means show the results on some sort of leaderboard. By benchmarking against others you can be sure your score is improving.
Say I was trying to increase the visitors to my shop and I increased visits by 400% you’d think I was doing well. But if that was only caused because I had 1 visit and now I have 5 that wouldn’t be so impressive if you knew my next door neighbour had 200 visits and now has 205. Feedback is better when benchmarked against peers – it helps us stay humble.
- Time your rate of feedback to match your rate of optimisation. If you are only going to have time to review your behaviour and suggest optimisations weekly then time your feedback to arrive weekly. You’ve no need to receive daily feedback – in fact this creates unnecessary additional noise.Time feedback to coincide with when you will have time to think about and consider optimisations makes much better sense. If you are using a leaderboard to score keep then release (and announce) the leaderboard weekly or monthly instead of daily.
I think many novice leaderboarders miss this point and try to create an instantly updating leaderboard. They forget that people just don’t want that much feedback – it can be too ‘in your face.’ Reducing the update frequency reduces the number of times they have to look at the leaderboard as this gives them permission to forget about it until it changes.
Scorekeeping is a great tool to improve your personal performance and that of your business. Using a leaderboard puts your scores in a competitive context. Use Leaderboarded to keep track of scores and you’ll see your feedback loops kick in and your performance start to improve.
I’ve been using scorekeeping to track my personal Tweet rate over the past 4 weeks. I want to try and be consistent in the amount I tweet as that is ‘best practice’ on social media. Truth be told I’m finding it hard to be consistent – some weeks I tweet as much as 28 times a (working) day, while other weeks my tweet rate is more like 4 a day. By scorekeeping in this way I am able to keep track of my performance. I’ve also added a bit of competitiveness into it by ranking myself against my nearest colleague – the good news is that I’m still beating him each week, maybe it’s time to start comparing myself with others outside my organisation!
If you’d like to read more about the positive benefits of Scorekeeping at work then I recommend gettting hold of a copy of Chuck Coonradt’s book Scorekeeping for Success