I don’t play golf, but I recently heard a golf-related anecdote I felt was worth sharing.
Prior to taking his shot, an avid golfer pulls out a fancy (and no doubt expensive) GPS unit and proceeds to calculate the exact distance to the hole. “Hmm. Is this accurate?”, he says, and then searches for the nearest distance marker as a quick calibration. After convincing himself he now knew the exact distance from his position to the hole, he began deliberating over which club to use. “Should I use the 6 or the 9?”, he asked his opponent.
Exasperated, his opponent said “you should just hit the ball!”
Finally, after selecting a club, the man walks over to his ball, waggles a bit, and swings. Pow! Straight into the trees and nowhere near the hole.
“You see! You should have just hit the ball. You’re not that good.”
In this case, knowing the exact distance to the hole, or exactly the right club to use, made no difference to our golfer because he lacked the skill to consistently hit the ball in the intended direction. Instead of being concerned with high tech devices and the accuracy of his information, he would have been better served by practice – hitting the ball.
After hearing this story, I had to laugh at myself. When I decided to start this blog, one of the things I was sure of was that I would use web analytics and data to monitor its performance. I spent a lot of time making sure all of the technical aspects were in place. I created a Google Analytics account and added the java script tags. As I made tweaks to my site, I visited my analytics dashboard to make sure it was registering my activity. I then thought I should add filters on the IP addresses I normally use to access the blog so my activity doesn’t taint the results. Let’s see, there’s this computer, that computer, this work station I use sometimes, and what about my mobile device? Can I filter my phone from the analytics report? How do I identify my IP address? Do I need to contact my wireless provider?
I was really excited about the upcoming launch of my blog and was telling people about it. “Soon” I would answer when friends asked when the blog would be launched. Finally, my wife asked, “When are you going to post something?” It was then I realized my blog wasn’t going to ever be launched if I didn’t start actually doing the activity of blogging! I put my analytics activities on hold from that point and shifted focus to writing ideas.
Data Measures Performance…So Perform First
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the importance of using data to improve performance. This blog isn’t called “The Data Whisperer” for nothing! I just realize from the story of our golfer friend and from my own experience, that data – no matter how sophisticated and accurate – cannot improve performance that is not built on actions that are consistently and correctly executed. Focus on hitting the ball straight before you worry yourself with accurate distance data. Focus on generating content, attracting an audience and building community around ideas before you worry about the accuracy of your web analytics!
Just hit the ball!
Now it’s your turn. Can you recall a time when you got caught up with the accuracy of information before establishing the correct actions? What did you do to get back on track? Do you still need to get on track?