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Thursday, January 31, 2013

How Much? By When?

My mother used to poke fun of my incessant list-making. It wasn't so much the exercise she scoffed at. Heck, she was the one who taught me the habit of writing out daily "to-do's." It was more my content, which always began with a hardy "get out of bed," which she found amusing. But who knows how much I would've accomplished if I wouldn't have been able to cross off my first task? Getting out of bed is kind of critical...

Okay, so early on my lists might have been trifling. But by performing those tasks, I began to learn the feeling of accomplishment. And as I grew older, the items on my lists became a bit more refined. I focused on activities like studying or piano. And as the mindset of of a list-maker goes, I was prone to monitor how accomplished I could become in my studies and piano. And as it turned out, I did okay.

Bill Gates most recently wrote a thoughtful piece in the Wall Street Journal about the importance of measuring progress in the plight to fix the problems of the world. Using the steam engine as the original innovation of measuring progress when energy output was used as a metric to hone the design of engine models, Mr. Gates suggests that by setting a goal, and by measuring results, and continuing to hone, true progress can made in just about any discipline. The article, effectively, presents how infant mortality has declined and how education could be reformed. I thought to myself, "Right on, brother."

At work, our management team was discussing 2013 goals at the end of the year. The question was posed, "Should we even set these goals for our staff?" The argument was that since staff was accountable to do their job, we should just see if we can achieve our overall goals without measuring specific progress. I have to admit, I froze upon hearing the idea. Not set goals for our staff? I didn't care for it at all. It was kind of like...not making a list for the day. I diplomatically argued against did a few other managers. Ultimately, we decided to trudge forward with team goals set in place, happily measuring progress on a monthly basis. Admittedly, I felt a tinge of guilt for not giving my staff a free pass for the year. Then I read the Bill Gates article. I don't feel so guilty anymore. As a matter of fact, I felt a bit emboldened by the article. I think I'll suggest to my kids that they need to start making daily lists. I don't even care if the list starts with "Get out of bed." Actually, I'd be happy with that.

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