In the previous post, I wrote about some questions you can use to help identify which direction to take your career. This post will go over how to gather data about yourself to provide evidence and narrative to get your career going in the direction you want to go. The types of metrics I list below (and more that you’ll come up with) are the ones you want to look for because they are very powerful when provided on a resume or in person because they show that you took the time to measure and improve a portion of something you worked on to benefit the business more. 90+% of the resumes I’ve read don’t have these types of numbers to back them up but they should and would make the individual stand out much more. Also, metrics are great when interviewing because it gives the interviewer a piece of information to probe about, such as “How exactly did you raise customer satisfaction rates by 17%?”
Gathering Data? I’m not a scientist…
You can’t improve yourself if you don’t know what you need to improve, so you need begin to keep track and gather data about yourself. I advocate at least a weekly log of the work that you do, which is what I use. Some people advocate a daily log, but this introduces a little too much friction for me, however I won’t be offended if you use it as long as it works best for you. All you need to do is simply write down what you did that week, which will be done periodically throughout the week. Anytime you complete a piece of a project, write it down. Don’t get into the minutiae such as when you got coffee, but anytime you complete something that works towards your themes or goals, write that down.
What types of data should I gather?
Each week, I also try to post up one metric that I worked on to improve that week. One week, it might be cutting down the amount of time it takes to compile our code. The next week, it might be eliminating duplication or extra steps in the build process. Sometimes, I don’t have a metric to post that week because I’m in the development phase of an idea, but when I’m about to implement or replace something, I do my best to keep track of that in some fashion, such as time saved for a process to run or amount of build definitions reduced.
For instance, I was hired to improve the build process at a company, among other things. When I timed the execution of a build the way the company had been doing it originally, I found it took about 3 hours and had a number of manual steps that hadn’t been written down and were very error-prone. After I had incorporated my improvements and automated the process so that it was a one-click build process, it took about 45 minutes to execute, which came out to a 75% reduction in execution time in addition to the elimination of human input that could cause errors.
If you were a manager and attempting to gather metrics, you might take monthly surveys on how the team feels about their job, using something like “On a scale of Very Satisfied/Likely to Very Dissatisfied/Unlikely: Are you happy with your job? Would you recommend this company to other people? Are you satisfied with your opportunities to learn?” You could also ask for suggestions on things that need improving. Try to identify the root cause of the problem, and the answers you turn up might be very surprising. This helps greatly when members on your team feel like leaving the company because they aren’t being listened to as long as you act on it.
Another metric that you could track is the number of complaints or issues your group deals with and how processes or improvements you put in place reduced those complaints or issues. If that number doesn’t change the number of complaints or issues, see if the number of satisfied customers increases instead.
As an example to try to quantify metrics you may measure, we’ll use the example of a project that has a tight schedule and is stressing people on your team out. Let’s say that you adjusted the workloads by pushing completion dates back, and you found that by simply removing the pressure of getting things done one X date, your team was capable of actually getting the work done ahead of the original schedule because they felt like they had more time to go back through and do the work the right way.
If you take on new responsibilities or receive a promotion, mark that as well and show how you improved things in the new position. This proves you’ve got a track record of making dramatic changes that affect the bottom-line in a positive way as you move up the ladder. I’ve included some questions below that should help you begin to identify metrics that you can track:
- Is there a task I do repeatedly that I can automate? How much time is saved by automating this process? How many people do this process by hand? How many mistakes are made in a given day/week when performing this task?
- When is the best time to perform this task? Can this task be done at a better time? – Echoing something that Tim Ferriss did here where he cut down the amount of time he spent trying to sell a product over the phone. This is for something like sales with C-level executives and repeatedly getting their assistants instead of the person that can really make the decision.
- Are people satisfied with the work that I do, or do I get a lot of complaints or bug reports? Is there something I can do to cut down the number of complaints/bug reports (such as talking to customers more to get to the bottom of why they are complaining)?
- Are we currently tracking customer satisfaction and time to resolve their issues? If so, what can I do to cut response times down and increase satisfaction?
- How many sales am I getting each month and what is my single biggest obstacle when closing sales? What can I do to get me 80% of the way past that obstacle and close more sales?
- How many people are completing each step of this process? When someone doesn’t complete the process, are we asking them why they didn’t complete it? – This can help by identifying what items you can include when running A/B tests.
- What is my current ranking for search term “X” when people use Google to search? How many blog posts do we have that talk about “X” and things that might use “X”? – Echoing Gary Vaynerchuk talking about wine. Gary ran a video blog about wine for 1,000 episodes and cemented himself as an influential catalyst in the wine world.
- How much does it cost us to do “X”? What can we do to cut that down without sacrificing quality and user experience?
I hope you’ve gained a lot of insight out of this post and if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.