Measuring performance and immediate feedback

October 21st, 2006 by jose

Internet Marketers (IMs) have an advantage over other professions: they have pretty detailed statistics to use as feedback. For example, they have as indicators hits, time between buys, length of their customer lists, and ultimately… the money they make! They check these statistics daily.

Musicians are punished horribly when they fail performing a passage, not only by their peers but when practicing alone, by their own musical sense jumping in disgust!

In other professions, for example academics, we don’t get such a direct feedback. We may get feedback by how many papers we get published a year, but this is too coarse of a measure, and it only comes in yearly.

We may also consider our rate of success getting funding, but this is again a coarse measure, since we apply to at most dozens of grants in a lifetime.

In teaching, we may get a more direct feedback in that students are normally very expressive and their faces reflect how well our current lecture is doing. Yearly evaluations are also evidence of our performance. But nothing this immediate and direct is available when, say, you are writing a paper.

Is immediate, direct feedback important to achieve top performance? Most expertise theories say so. According to Ericsson the definition of expertise relies on deliberate practice. Deliberate practice entails more than simply repeating a task. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.

Also, general common sense says that “that which can be measured, improves.”. This implicitly assumes that the measurement is accurate and immediate.

For this reason, it seems obvious that some direct, accurate, and immediate feedback on how productive we are should be put in place. Now the problem is which productivity measures to use. We’ll cover this topic in a future post.

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One Response to “Measuring performance and immediate feedback”

  1. academic productivity » Writing: granularity Says:

    [...] There is an invited post over at by Michael Leddy, an English professor who recommends that we should divide major actions (such as “write term paper”) into smaller, more doable tasks (NAs in GTD’s parlance). I think this could be a good read for students, and even for academics; Most of us keep this partitioning into smaller tasks “in our heads”; making it explicit and dumping it into paper might help with things such as time estimation… a consistent problem I have is that I never know how long I will need to finish a paper. This is one of the reasons I posted before that we need to decompose tasks to be able to track progress better. [...]

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