Sent by Jonathan Stark on September 21st, 2018
Let’s say there are Legos all over your basement floor and you want them picked up so you can safely walk to the mini fridge in the dark with no shoes on. (This is totally hypothetical, of course 😉 )
You estimate that there are 10,000 Legos. So you hand a big empty box to your kids and instruct them to fill it with 10,000 legos.
For hours and hours, you hear them diligently counting Legos as they place them in the box. Periodically, you call down the stairs to ask for a progress report.
First, they shout back: “721!”
And then later: “1372!”
Still later: “3716!”
Eventually, they come upstairs with a box filled with 10,000 Legos. By now it’s quite late - all that counting takes forever! They go to bed, the lights are out, and you pad downstairs in your jammies to raid the fridge.
You flick on the lights and there are still loads of Legos on the floor.
What went wrong?
If you want the floor cleaned up, counting the Legos is worse than irrelevant. It actually make the project harder, longer, more tedious, and less likely to succeed.
Instead, you should have said to your kids:
“Please make sure the floor is clean.”
This is the outcome you desired. And it would have been quicker and easier to achieve.
If your clients want to focus on an irrelevant success metric - like, oh I dunno... the number of hours worked - you owe it to them and to yourself to move their focus to the actual desired outcome.
It’s better for everyone involved.