If you can measure it, you can improve it

If you can measure it, you can improve it

Early this year, I noticed I'd put on some lockdown-weight. I wasn't super worried but wanted to get back to my typical, healthier weight level.

My first intuition in this situation was, "let me go on a diet." Diets can work. But they are expensive: you spend willpower every day on avoiding the delicious-but-bad-for-you kind of food. Then I recalled a principle I've lived by in my work: "if you can measure it, you can improve it."

In a few minutes, I ordered a scale on Amazon to track my weight. I decided to step on the scale every morning and not try to change my actions in any other way.

In the first few weeks, my weight was pretty stable. Then it started climbing. At some point, I figured out why: overeating carbs. There are other factors in body weight, but carbs show up pretty reliably in my short-term weight and have a long-term weight impact. Now I had a tight feedback loop: every morning, I evaluated whether I overate carbs the last day.

It has worked. My weight's slowly been coming down to my normal range. Looking back, buying the scale was the only intervention needed. I didn't need to spend much willpower elsewhere: daily weighing gave me a signal that reinforced helpful behaviors. Sometimes measuring is enough of a nudge that good day-to-day choices become easy.

There are more examples. At Veriff, Gallup Q12 surveys helped me figure out which issues to prioritize to make my team a better place to work. A friend's continuous blood glucose monitor helps him understand which foods cause sugar spikes. And, of course, almost every organization has KPIs in place to track daily, weekly, or quarterly progress.

Data does not help in all situations. But in your business and your personal life, it mostly does. Measurement gives a window into how your actions impact what you care about. A tighter feedback loop.