Measuring Progress From the Trenches

These days I find myself taking a short-term perspective toward my work, even as I advocate more long-term thinking. While the irony of this situation isn’t lost on me, execution requires that I focus on the here, now, and next.

My current commitments — teaching a weekly class, speaking at various events, this daily blog, finishing my book — call for a constant focus on what’s immediately around the corner. It’s not like I don’t have any sense of what I’m doing in the long term; I’ve mapped out a higher-level plan for all of these projects. But I’m now in execution mode. “In the trenches,” to use the gory cliché. I suspect it’s analogous to the situation many busy teams and organizations find themselves in. They’ve planned their approach or had someone plan it out for them; now they’re doing the necessary work.

The question is: When, how, and how frequently do they stop to take stock of progress, to see how they’re doing? And is it necessary to stop? Or are there ways to bake feedback mechanisms into execution so that they can constantly adjust? (I sense this is where frameworks like OKRs provide value; they offer a means for short-cycle feedback.) I’m looking for ways of implementing such short-cycle feedback loops in my work. The obvious challenge is that this work must compete for time with the actual work to be done. I plan to run a series of experiments on this and write about them here. If I have time, of course.