Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lead and Lag…

I think, it’s time for some theory, and I found this subject to be much less talked about than it deserves to be…so here we go.

One of my friends recently wrote a little joke…she found a machine that goes from zero to 120 in one second! Unfortunately, it’s a weighing machine and not a race car.

Many of us, including me, check our weight religiously. We possibly can also remember how the weight has moved in last week, month and years.


Can we also recall, what our diet was just yesterday? How many calories we added on an average per day, in last week, month or an year.
Extremely unlikely!

While we focus on the outcome measure (weight), we don’t have as much attention to the real impacting measure (food intake).


In this example, Weight is a Lag Measure and Calories Consumed is a Lead Measure. While an eye on the Weight (Lag measure) is important, the focus should really be Calories/Food intake. (Lead Measure).

Everytime I go home and enjoy my Mom’s cooking, I know I’m going to gain weight, because I know I’m going to eat more.
Understanding of the movement in Lead measure, will help us know what the outcome is likely to be.

Besides, food intake, you must also spend time at the gym know what exercises help.


You can have multiple or combination of lead measures which contribute to the same lag measure.


Another great example is, the “marks scored” by the kids. It is a favorite topic around March and April, and most kids are constantly encouraged to score more. Kids get rewarded for 25 out of 25 and parents feel proud of the genetics.

What if, we change our focus a little, and reward the kid for regular hours of study everyday? What if we track the Revision and practice hours? And reward the kids for doing so.

It is highly likely; the kid will get better grades and more importantly, will create more learning.


Lead measures are also the “Drivers”, and keeping up with good lead measures should get you to good lag measure score.

We are perhaps, tuned to the phrase, “Result Orientation”, and mistake it for a sharpened focus on the outcome measures. If you are truly result oriented, and would like to achieve good results consistently, you’ll have to focus on lead measures.

Also, keeping track of food intake or exercise hours is way more difficult than hopping on to the weight scale. Lead measures are usually more difficult to keep track of than the lag or outcome measure. Which is another reason, why most people find it convenient to focus on the lag measure.

While the concept is talked more in context of performance management in business, I think, it can be applied to more situations at home and community.
Try it out…and see the difference.

Disclaimer: Neither the subject or the examples are new. There is a ton of material online and books that may talk about this subject. My attempt is only to explain it my words.

4 comments:

  1. Absolutely right... we always end up focusing on the lag measure instead of the lead measure. Since there are more lead measures to track for a single lag measure, i think we are wired to find the easier way out!

    A conscious effort to change our wiring and embrace lead measures will surely go a long way.

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  3. Nice post.....
    I would like to add something similar.....
    When you want to achieve something, it is important to set both goals and objectives. Once you realize the difference between objectives and goals, you will realize the importance of both of them. Goals minus objectives can never be achieved while objectives minus goals will never get you where you want to be.
    These two concepts are separate but related and will, definitiely, help one to be what he wants to achieve.

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  4. @Kishore: Yes. Easy seems to win a lot now a days.
    @Amit: Goals and objectives is a good way to planning. This helps us take baby steps and get satisfaction and encouragement in short spurts.

    Thanks for sharing!

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