Friday, January 29, 2010

A body of evidence

So I've been on a diet for a few months now, having returned to the sort of exercise regime I prefer once my major project had been submitted. I've been very good about not leaping onto the scales every day, but I have had a little weekly weigh-in and measure up to keep track of my progress (7.6kgs or 16.7lbs to date). A little performance review, if you like.

Today, I poked my scale with my toe to activate it.
I changed the battery.
I gave it a little shake.
I swore at it.
I engaged in a little percussive maintenance (i.e. I smacked it a few times).

I went out and bought a new one.

Now I just knew this would happen: the new one tells me I weigh .8kg more than I did last Friday. I know that I don't, because I lost another 4cm around my waist in the last fortnight, and I've outshrunk (well, what's the opposite of outgrown, then?) trousers I bought in December. It's an anomaly of the way scales work - no two ever seem to tell the same story, so you just pick one and stick with it, making sure the trend is in the right direction. When you have to change horses in the middle of the race, there's bound to be a bit of teething trouble.

Ah, but you see, from now on, my scale will not just weigh me, it will keep track of my weight. It will also keep track of my husband's, our sons' (should they care) and up to 6 other people.

Not only this: the scale blithely told me this morning what my body fat percentage is (in the healthy range), what my total body water percentage is (healthy), what my muscle mass is (no guidance given) and what my BMI is (still in the overweight range - go figure).

So, I have a ton of metrics to work with.

All this makes me think of workplace learning and development (plus ca change!). Here we have this learning department getting on with doing the job. Then we decide to introduce new technology (while, in the case of my scale it was because the old technology was broken, this is not always the case in the world of L&D). While we get used to the new technology, there will be glitches and setbacks. But of course, the powers that be will be won over by the promise of metrics. You will be able to see exactly who's done what, when and how well. Each user's every move will be recorded and reported on.


Now I'm not saying we should go back to a bygone era. I'd be among the last to suggest that. What I am saying is that we get a little happy with our tracking and our metrics. Sometimes we forget that to deliver the goodies on these, some poor blighter is going to have to generate a report, create a few charts.... and the explain what the significance of it all is.

In my case, things are working as they should when I get back into my Levi's.

In the case of a business, things are working as they should, when the business is performing as it should.



Garry Platt said...

My take would be that your Levi’s seem to be the ultimate measure of success. And to get there you appear to be using intermediate measures which provide feedback. The failure of your old scales appeared to break that feedback loop. But there were other metrics that you were using concurrently: “I lost another 4cm around my waist in the last fortnight, and I've outshrunk (well, what's the opposite of outgrown, then?) trousers I bought in December.”

These are all measures; would these be the equivalents of graphs, comparisons and assessments? My experience with lots of organisations is they might (but occasionally don’t) have the ultimate goal clearly defined (Fitting into my jeans) but need to know they are heading in the right direction and monitor this by defining indicators which will provide feedback along the way. Graphs, charts, reports, presentations etc etc.

I don’t think we get happy enough with our measuring and tracking, too much training, coaching and e based development is ‘faith based’ rather than outcome based. And in the absence of appropriate measures and tracking crap like Brain Gym, NLP et al creep under the wire. If we measured the real impact of most of training and development delivered in this country and only undertook that which made any real contribution I’m convinced half the delivers and developers in the UK would go bankrupt within a week.

Remember, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he has a really boring hobby. Give a man a religion, like evangelistic NLPers or radicalised life coaches or E based missionaries, and he dies praying for a fish.”

The upsycho said...

@Garry What a brilliant response. Love it! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. And of course, there is much in what you say.

I think the problem is that we're looking at the wrong numbers... or adding 2+2 and getting Tuesday.

Assumptions are made by non-learning people about what the metrics can tell them about learning. Mostly, I find that they actually tell very little about learning. They're usually a reflection of teaching at best and attendance at worst.

I maintain that the only real way to tell whether learning is happening is by means of effective performance management. Not one of those box-ticking exercises that are 'done to' the individual, but a proper, grown up scenario of mutual accountability, the like of which is about as rare as [insert metaphor here].

Anonymous said...

Well done - an inspiration to all of us - that must have taken some self-discipline :)

The upsycho said...

@Nicola Ha! This coming from someone who goes away on martial arts weekends and does more exercise in the space of a weekend than some people do in a lifetime! I think you're the inspiration, girl. I'm just a pale imitation. But, yes, I have been disciplined and worked hard.

Garry Platt said...

“Assumptions are made by non-learning people about what the metrics can tell them about learning.”

Absolutely, lots of Development Functions measure the effectiveness of class room based trainers by the number of days they are in class. I can think of trainers where the more time they spend in class the more damage they’re doing to the host organisation!

Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

:) I have had a terrible two weeks, but I've been better the last 2/3 days - I have to weigh myself soon - applying for a fight on 28th Feb - which is always horrible !

I need to go to training today, haven't attended for over a fortnight now - its going to be soooo hard but worth it.

Do you find you have more energy now too.

We can do this !

The upsycho said...

@Garry "I can think of trainers where the more time they spend in class the more damage they’re doing to the host organisation!" Nice one! Me too!
@Nic Glad you're on the mend. Hope your fight goes well. And yes - we can do this!