As we were driving home one stormy night, my husband said, “I don’t want to scare you but I have a question.” I replied, “Ok, what?”. He asked, “Are my headlights on?” I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or if he was having some fun with me as his sense of humor ranges anywhere from Monty Python to Steve Martin.
So let me as you a similar question: Can you see where you (or your business) are going? Except, in this case, I’m not joking.
Doors have windows so you can see what is going on before you open the door. Cars have headlamps so you can see down the road, before you get there. We tell children to “look both ways” before crossing the street.
In our physical world, we understand the importance of “seeing” prior to moving. It eliminates running into things or getting run over by those things. The same can be said for the business world.
While we cannot see the future, tracking certain things may give us a heads up that a disruption is coming if something isn’t changed. These are called “leading indicators” and in a way allow you to “see” as you move forward. Measuring the past is helpful in showing progress to a goal however it gives you no indication of what the future will bring. You always see those types of statements associated with the investment community, “past performance is not an indicator of future success.” But on the whole, it should give you some form of a head’s up. A warning perhaps. Or maybe an inkling.
Thinking through what metrics you need gives you sight that will allow you to take action early. Small problems are hard to see but easy to fix whereas big problems are easy to see but almost impossible to fix.
You need to find metrics that that both confirm you are improving and that you have a clear path forward. So if you find yourself on a dark road on a stormy night, you won’t scare your passenger by asking, “Are my headlights on?” Be proactive. Find your metrics.