Thursday, January 28, 2016

Key Performance Indicators

"Did you meet your KPIs this year?" Unless you work in certain industries, a KPI might be a foreign concept. It refers to a Key Performance Indicator, and you will find them to be prevalent in sales jobs and the like. It is a metric used to set a goal {I will sell 10,000 shirts this quarter} that is usually measurable and assess one's performance over a given time. Some people love these things because it gives them a specific goal and incentive to perform well. Their use makes sense in the workplace for many industries as a way to quantify success, sales, productivity, compliance, etc.

But what happens when we create KPIs in our personal lives? Some of us may do this consciously every January 1st in saying "I will save $x,xxx this year." Some of us do it subconsciously when we think to ourselves, "My baby will sleep through the night at 3 months old." Whether we know it or not, many of us create KPIs for all facets of life, and I am here to argue that, in the wrong context, KPIs are counterproductive. When we are at work, and our performance ties to our pay increases, it makes sense to implement KPIs to evidence success, analyze the past and predict future performance.  It can become downright psychologically damaging to set KPIs in your personal life, yet I see them all the time in person, in books, on Pinterest, you name it.

Lose 20 lbs in 6 weeks.

Breastfeed my baby for one year.

How to get my baby to sleep all night by 3 months old.

Have the whole house clean by Friday.

I will be married by 25.

I will get pregnant by the end of the Summer.

You might be thinking, "hey, these sound like great goals. What's wrong with having goals?" As long as they are properly classified as aspirations and you fully appreciate all of the variables at play, then I see no harm in your future. But chances are that you read enough books, had enough friends tell you and saw on Pinterest that it is possible for your baby to sleep through the night at 3 months old if you just follow X-formula or process. It basically says, "this input yields this output." I bet I could go hunt down 500 moms of 3-month olds who read the same books, were given the same advice, followed it to a Type-A caliber "T" and ...their babies scarcely sleep at night. The result in mom's brain? Why am I failing at this? I am not a successful mom. I followed all the rules. All I do is try and make no progress. Doesn't that sound like a fun way to live your life? Your every mood based on some arbitrary metric that society likely planted in your head? No thank you. Not for me.

I like them at work. Enough data from the past can allow the formation of KPI metrics to be reasonably set (not too high, not too low) to be attained in a reasonable time. While there are some variables in operating conditions, others have identified patterns of predictability that still point to a likelihood of meeting the target. Once an unplanned obstacle occurs, KPIs can be adjusted or the owner of the metric can acknowledge and strategize  around the fact that the progress is "at risk."

At home, aren't we just trying to achieve balance, harmony and happiness? Don't we set ourselves up for a complete meltdown if all we are doing is chasing KPIs in a context in which one size never fits all? You have enough of that at work. I believe in goal setting. I believe in having aspirations and ideals in all facets of long as they are reasonable, flexible and forgivable. Guess what? If I don't lose 20 lbs. in 6 weeks, nothing happens. If I don't breastfeed for one year, my baby will be fed by alternate means after breastfeeding stops. If my baby doesn't sleep through the night at 3 months, the world does not stop turning on its axis. No one from TMZ is standing outside your nursery with a camera ready to broadcast to the world that your home life is in shambles. Life is about planning for the unplanned and staying nimble or agile. Are you really going to place your ideas of success in the hands of an infant? I certainly won't.

You are a parent, and that is not a KPI-driven job. It is a task. It is work, but it is a process. It is riddled with variables. It has its own cadence, rhythm and personality. It's yours. My advice, my admittedly inexperienced advice, is to leave the KPIs at work and focus on what makes you operate on all cylinders at home - good support, strong self-esteem, rest and relaxation, etc. All of those things are jeopardized by setting lofty goals in your head.

I'll end with an example. When we first decided we wanted to have a baby, I wanted it to happen immediately. Strangely enough, it did the first month I was off of birth control. That was January 2015. You can do the math...we miscarried at 6 weeks. Easily, I could have felt like a failure. No doubt the thought crossed my mind. But I didn't do that to myself. There was an unknown variable, likely a chromosomal abnormality, that I did not plan. You all would think I was insane for thinking I could predict and plan and set goals around something as multi-factorial as getting pregnant. But I did until I learned I couldn't.

No more. Home is about leaving the KPIs at the door and focusing on being relational. About creating an environment of positivity and joy. Will there be stresses? NO DOUBT. Bank on it. But I bet you will be exponentially more resilient if you abandon false ideals and just live.

Your job: remind me of this blog post in 3 months.

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