Reimagining Metrics: Measuring Your Sustainability
Admittedly, I can be a bit impatient with standardized approaches to strategy. Simply put, quarterly measurements are pretty meaningless in light of an organization’s wingspan. I lovingly push my colleagues about longevity, not because I aim to be a pain, but because I want you to be successful.
Where I see the most confusion is transitioning from a quarter-focused goal post to a dynamic, future-proof outlook that takes long-term and short-term efficacy into account simultaneously.
>> Quarters lack context and are not responsive enough to have meaning.
>> Quarters are a byproduct of fixed fiscal calendars that don’t adapt to global or regional shifts. >> Quarterly measurements are abstract and neglect nuance.
By contrast, agile-type “sprints,” when done well, are entirely about adapting to circumstances. You can tweak a sprint’s timeframe to meet the needs of the moment, such as an internal company change, an external client request, a shifting cultural context that impacts your HQ, an environmental jolt to your supply chain, or a black swan event like COVID. A sprint might appear at first glance to be only about shipping a deliverable in a few weeks’ time. But a well-designed sprint is actually about focusing your team to artfully meet a real-time, contextual need.
How does real-time adaptation lead to future-proof strategy? Aren’t sprints too short-term?
I hear you: building enduring quality a few weeks at a time might sound like a contradiction. How can a small amount of value delivered in 2 or 3 weeks possibly be as meaningful as a quarter or 2 of impressive numbers? Surely 6 months always beats 14 days?
One benefit is that smaller increments allow us to see systems in action. Instead of laying sequential building blocks, we can see how each segment of value interrelates.
For example, these renditions of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals visually show sequence versus systems. They might be numbered just for clarity of visual reference, but in practice, they’re intertwined and not sequential.
Adaptability is the key to long-term success. You’ve probably heard the phrase “focus on the war and not the battle.” That’s part of it — If you’re not bogged down on every interim potential “win” then you have energy for massive, world-bending success.
Chasing quarters can give the illusion that important things are happening RIGHT NOW. But intentional adaptability, as I like to call it, is a form of working smart.