Are you succeeding? If not, maybe you’re measuring success the wrong way

Every action you undertake begins with three things:

  1. Motivation – Why are you doing this? What’s driving you? What’s the point?
  2. Goal – What do you hope to achieve? What does success look like?
  3. Action plan – How will you achieve your goal? What do you need to do?

Most of us understand this template and have learned it at some point or another. However, one key component of success that is commonly forgotten is measuring success.

Measuring success: how do we know we’re getting there?

It’s easy to picture ourselves standing at the top of the mountain, our flag deeply rooted at the peak of Mount Everest. We can imagine ourselves staring at that beautiful 100% on a test. You can picture yourself reading the “Congratulations! Welcome to UofT medical school” email.

It is extremely easy to picture success and the final goal. The problem is knowing how close we are to getting there – how do we measure success? How do we know we’re getting close to our desired outcome? It’s an issue faced not just be individuals, but by organizations and entire industries.

The reason why it’s so important to be measuring your success correctly is because how well you are doing should inform the direction you take moving forward. If you’re climbing Mount Everest, it’s easy to measure success – how high did you get this time?

However, what if you were measuring success incorrectly – what if you were measuring success by how far horizontally you were moving around Mt Everest’s perimeter? You would be achieving distance and think you were succeeding, but the reality is that you would be going in the wrong direction and actually nowhere close to achieving your final goal. If you measure success wrong, then you will be tracking your progress wrong, and you will not achieve your goals.

While that might sound like an absurd example, much of the time measuring success can be blurry and we can get it wrong.

Example: Measuring the success of Team Work

One of the problems in our current education system is how we’re often measured based on individual metrics – even in a group situation. When put in group situations in school, we tend to be marked by how much we say. The more you participate, generally, the better your mark. And let’s not kid ourselves – this seeps into the highest levels of education.

But hold on for a second – what was the goal of the group activities? Was it to inform the school who the most active participants are? If it is, then great, the metric of participation works just fine. Somehow, I doubt this is the case.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think (or hope) this is not the goal of school group activities. When teams are formed, they should be working towards a common goal. In the real world, teams are measured by their performance on achieving their common goals and not individual metrics. So why are we educating this way?

Health care teams

In the health care team, the common goal is providing the best care for the patient. We measure much of our success in health care by patient outcomes.

The best teams aren’t necessarily the ones where everyone is highly participatory for the sake of participating. If we measured the success of health care teams by the ones who spoke the most words, we’d be in serious trouble.

The best teams are the ones where everyone works together to care for the patient in the best manner possible. Depending on the team, that might mean certain individuals saying more than others and certain individuals doing more than others.

In order to succeed, you need to make sure you’re measuring success the right way. Otherwise you’re going to be rounding Mount Everest at the base. Which is fine if it’s actually Mount Everest you’re running around, but it’s not okay if it’s a patient. We certainly can’t afford to measure success wrong in health care and other industries.