We'll it's April 1st; not only is it April Fools Day, but this signals the end of the First Quarter (assuming you manage to the calendar year). This is very exciting day!
As an aside, April Fools Day is a day that you can play harmless practical jokes; these jokes, as well as the victims, are known as "April Fools". In theory, there are no consequences, harm or foul for your humorous activities, but remember, some people don't have a sense of humor and long memories, so tread with care. Apart from the obvious merriment, it is also a natural point in the calendar (particularly in business) to determine if you are "on target" to meet your plan objectives for the year.
There is a Six Sigma* saying that goes something like this, "In God we trust, everyone else bring data." I've always liked this saying, as it reminds us that hard, objective information lets us understand a situation and by extension, measure how we are doing against our objectives. Measuring first quarter results against your objectives gives you insight in to how you have started the year - Are you off to a great start, or are you falling a little short and need to course correct?
Measuring how you are doing relative to expectations is key; it is a main reason why plans, goals and objectives need to be developed... as well as physically written down. It's all about having them down on paper in "black and white", and is the reason for the "M" in a S.M.A.R.T Objective**. "M" is for measurable - Measuring performance to your goals after the first 90 days -
- Develops an objective view of how you are performing to your goals.
- Indicates how effective your initial implementation has been.
- Offers an opportunity to"course correct" or initiate new activities with time enough to be impactful.
Data does not feel or think...it just is; having data and measuring it against your planned objectives eliminates these two statements: "I feel everything is going according to plan" or "I think everything is going to plan"; it allows you to say, "I know everything is going according to plan!"
If you find yourself saying "I think" or "I feel", there is a good chance you are not working from data. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is KING.***
* Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement and functional excellence. It was developed by Motorola and popularized by Jack Welsh who made it central to his business strategy at General Electric; it has been adopted by many businesses to drive improvement.
** SMART is an acronym, giving criteria to guide in the setting of objectives:
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify a target of progress.
- Achievable – can the objective realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Relevant – is the objective in-line with your strategies and plans
- Time-bound – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
*** I know a dear geophysicist who is probably gritting her teeth over my loose definitions of data and knowledge. My only defence... the use of artistic license to hopefully illustrate a point.