Business leaders want to see constant improvement and growth from their businesses. In order to be a nimble and innovative enterprise, organizations need to be objective about individual, team, and company-wide performance. Yet as individual workers and organizations seek tools to track work and evaluate performance, we start to hear terms like “Big Brother” tossed around.
But what if we thought about apps that track work not so much as Big Brother watching every move we make, but as a FitBit activity tracker keeping tabs on our activity throughout the day, and painting a picture of the health of an organization from individual work on up.
This might be a loose analogy, since we’re not exactly talking biometrics here. However, an app has the ability to track your work activity and show your progress - without a lot of time spent keeping track of the work you’re doing - can provide transparency and boost accountability for yourself and your organization.
How Are You Tracking Success?
Whether they’re training for a marathon or trying to increase their step count, individuals use fitness trackers to give them the data they need to track their progress and results, and ultimately improve themselves. Much in the same way, a platform for tracking and managing work can give individuals information and insight into their tasks, projects, and processes to help them become more effective and efficient and have a greater impact.
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink lays out three factors that motivate employees and increase performance and satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy, the ability to fulfill our desire to be self-directed, increases engagement, as does mastery, the ability to fulfill our urge to get better at what we do.
A platform that enables people to track their work in a way that lets them be self-directed, and assess their successes and failures to get better at what they do, can help fulfill both. Individuals are compelled to track and improve their work not because of corporate mandates, but out of a desire for personal betterment. And if individual team members are engaged in personal self improvement, the business as a whole will improve.
The Challenge of Tracking Work
Obviously, tracking work is harder for knowledge workers who aren’t measured on hard metrics like sales teams. Tracking and measuring work effectively will vary based on the role and what success looks like to that worker. For customer service representatives, it could be the number of customer calls fielded, and how customers rated those calls. A content marketer might measure the number of articles they wrote, where those articles were placed, and how successful the articles were based on web traffic and brand awareness. A developer might look at the features they shipped in a specific release or in a given period of time.
Mastery could also be focused on process improvement. For any given project, workers can assess what tasks came up during the project and account for those up front next time. Together, teams can evaluate if project checklists are still relevant and strive to make sure checklists and templates are as small and as complete as possible. If 50% of the items on an individual checklist are not applicable to the project at hand, workers should have the autonomy to update them.
As individual contributors track and manage their work, their managers also have visibility into what they’re doing and how they’re improving. But rather than using this transparency to “keep tabs” on people, management’s role is to provide purpose and inspire and support people to continue to do great work, strive for personal improvement, and grow their careers. This isn’t just a nice thing to do - it’s how the business improves. And with that level of transparency, managers and execs can see how individual contributions add up to achieving corporate goals.
Chart a Course for Success
With everything constantly changing and accelerating, there’s really no set playbook for businesses to succeed in their day to day operations going forward. Every day we face new challenges, competitions, and innovations that may affect everyone, or may be unique to a specific business. This means that businesses often end up flying by the seats of their pants.
But if companies are tracking work in a useful way, they don’t have rely on feel and instinct to get where they are going, because individuals, teams, and organizations will have ways to track and report on what they’ve been doing, whether it’s been successful, and use that information to quickly chart a new course.