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Should We Monitor Progress or Activity?
The Kevin Eikenberry Group The Kevin Eikenberry Group
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Indianapolis, IN
Monday, September 19, 2022


progress or activityShould we monitor (or measure) progress or activity? It is a good question – one that you may not have thought about or realized how important the answer might be. That’s why I’m writing this. To give us all some food for thought and perhaps a new perspective on this important question. Let’s start by looking at the virtues of each.

The Case for Progress

Monitoring progress is common. It is the simple look at how close (or far) we are from a goal. Whether expressed in real or percentage terms, monitoring progress provides valuable information on the level and possibility of success.  When the things we are measuring are concrete, it is easy to measure progress.  Things like defects, revenues, and production rates good examples of things easy to measure. Some goals though are harder to measure, and sometimes stifle goal setting efforts since “goals should be measurable”.

The Case for Activity

When it is harder to measure progress, or there are a variety of factors that impact a result we might want to look at monitoring activity.  In these cases, we can identify activities that can be measured and will move us in the direction of our goals.  If you are a salesperson, you can measure the number of calls you make in an hour or day.  If you are writing a book, you can note each day that you write. If you are trying to lose weight, you can monitor your daily exercise.  In each of these cases, monitoring the activity is easier and a more immediate way to judge effort than looking at the ultimate end-goal, and helps people stay accountable when the goal is complex in nature.

Monitoring activity can be easier, but there is a big trap here too. Unless we are monitoring the right activities (those that support achieving the ultimate goal) monitoring activity can become simply proof that we are busy, where that becomes the goal in itself.

The Verdict

So where does that leave us?

It is most likely that in most situations, both personally and professionally, a mix of progress and activity measures will serve you best. Are you frustrated that you don’t know how to measure a goal?  Look to activity measures to help. Your goal is large or long-term? Monitoring the right activities will keep you focused and motivated.  But relying solely on monitoring activities, divorced from your real goal or objective leads to busywork, and ultimately treating the activity as the goal, rather than a step towards your real target.


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