A Trial Separation

It’s the equivalent of at least three full flights up to the airport lounge, but I head to the stairs. As I round the first landing, it hits me. I’m all alone on this climb. I mean, I knew it before, but I didn’t really feel it until just now.

We’ve been inseparable for some time now. Maybe that’s what makes this seem, not hard exactly, but wrong at so many levels. Yet, lately, I’ve also had the feeling that we’ve lost that initial enthusiasm, that innocent joy in just being together. That, somehow, it had become all about the numbers.

And so it’s come to this. As I head off on a lengthy trip without my computer, I’m also leaving my Fitbit One at home.

With the mobile app, I guess I could download my daily results to my phone. The real challenge would be keeping the Fitbit charged up. Wasting precious touring time in looking for stray USB connections to plug into is just a non-starter.

Yet it’s only partly about the logistics. What would have been a heresy two months ago – deliberately putting aside the Fitbit, taking an intentional break – now feels like a mental health initiative. A chance to reconnect with my love of walking for its own sake.

But I’m not entirely convinced that I’m doing right by responding to my slight unease. All those conversations with managers and researchers over the years have left their mark in the form of beliefs about the value of measurement and data. Beliefs encapsulated in the form of succinct (and, seemingly, self-evidently true) statements from colleagues.

The workers respect what the managers inspect.

Based on my, ahem, extensive Wiki research, I’m guessing that’s been modified from Expect what you inspect, which is what Deming, the guru of manufacturing management, actually said.

For sure I’ve found that Isabel (as worker) does more walking when Isabel (as manager) keeps an eye on the number of steps walked. For sure I’ve found, too, that there’s something seductive about watching that daily step or flights-of-stairs tally, that count of calories burned, gradually increase through the day and through the week.

You can’t manage what you can’t/don’t measure.

That’s a Deming classic, too, although it appears that he didn’t, umm, actually say that.

“Deming is often incorrectly quoted as saying, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ In fact, he stated that one of the seven deadly diseases of management is running a company on visible figures alone.”

Oh my. Well, there you have it.

Maybe Deming, too, would have left his Fitbit at home — even if only from time to time. In the last nine months I’ve seen the power of measuring my activity level. Now maybe it’s time to see the power of not measuring it: of remembering simply how to walk the walk.
PS I’ll be without easy internet access for the next few weeks and will not be posting blogs or responding to comments.


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4 Responses to A Trial Separation

  1. Happy trails, Isabel. Your writing will be missed. Stay safe and come back with new adventures and insights to share. And don’t forget to keep the power of music within reach. Blessings, Laurna

  2. Alison says:

    Made ME laugh! and also made me forward your post to Corvin! I’ll be curious to see what he thinks about it? He’s currently in NYC and emailed me his “step count” last night. Have a wonderful trip!

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    Futurist Harding Vowles defines measurement as one of the “icons” (also known as “sacred cows”) of our society. If you can attach a measurement to it, it’s considered valid; if you can’t, it’s shrugged off as subjective or anecdotal. You can challenge the accuracy of the measurement, but not the need to resort to measurement. So welcome to the brave new world of knowing that something is worthwhile just because it is, not because you can measure it!

  4. Welcome to the dark side: I don’t even have a cell phone (!)
    and manage to be happy (!).
    After a few days, maybe you’ll wonder what the fuss was all about. 😀
    And we back here will wonder what the returning Isabel will be like.

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