At Practo, we have a culture of reporting metrics once a week on how what we're doing is moving the needle for the company as a whole. With over a hundred different metrics reported every week, that affect various functions in the company, it is quite easy to be lost in the metrics. But more than having a bird's eye view on everything going on, this serves a whole other purpose.
Personally, I have my own metrics that I track on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis, like the number of articles I read in a week, number of blog posts I write, number of kilometres I bike and run, the amount I sleep, number of books I read, etc. None of it is for making big decisions. But any change in my lifestyle reflects how these metrics shape up and over time I get to see a trend for the better or for worse.
Many a time, it is very hard to experience a long term effect. Running everyday brings about certain changes in your body, but these are never observable in a short period of time (rarely under three months). When you're looking to bring about a change in lifestyle, it is very easy to default back to the normal routine and give up on the changes. This is the reason why most New Year's resolutions fizzle out.
I'm a big fan of Runkeeper, which helps me track how much I run and bike. There are a host of such apps that help you measure everything you do from the amount of water you drink in a day to the number of steps you walk. The success of these apps don't lie in how accurately they measure these things for you, but in the habits they help you form. When you are taking up something that doesn't have an immediate short-term consequence that you can witness, it always helps to conquer little milestones. And regular measurement helps you in identifying those little milestones. After a few months, when your change in lifestyle has kicked in, when new habits have been formed, there is little need for these metrics. They are now internalised. For example, I can tell how much I have run just by the number of songs that have played on my running playlist. No need for Runkeeper. That's when you move on to other metrics.
It is the same for organizations. The metrics that are constantly reported on help internalise the ideals of the company in the employees. If your metric is revenue, the employees will cut any corners needed to sell more. And if it is efficiency, they pick the easiest tasks first and the complex tasks get sidelined.
Metrics are a powerful way of creating new habits. So choose them wisely. And measure them constantly.