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Good enough metrics

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An example of data plotted on a graph

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a development programme I'm doing through the GCS, I spent a week on a placement at Fabric, to learn a bit about what they do and how they do it.

I returned to my desk energised by what I had seen, as well as reassured about some of the things we're trying to do at DH.

I learned an awful lot: about how an agency operates day to day, about what community management means for big brands, about crisis planning, about commitment to the Agile method, and about how creatives and account managers operate on big campaigns.

But the thing that really struck me about the people I was working with was their commitment to their craft, and in particular their thoroughness in their pursuit of metrics that their clients can act on.

In Whitehall we think and talk quite a lot about data, insight and evaluation. It would be career limiting now not to. But too often our metrics aren't really designed to be acted on, and are provided after the fact, as a justification (or not) for something that we've already done.

During the week I noticed that I tended to reach a point at which I thought something was "good enough" more quickly than anyone else. The people I was working with kept on brainstorming synonyms, or considering better ways to express meaning, or thinking harder about alternative approaches.

I suppose it might be something to do with always having a bottom line. In Whitehall, "good enough" is often good enough. We don't have our clients' sales chart motivating us every day. But that shouldn't be an excuse. We might just need to think more creatively.

The other thing I learned was about myself. I found that hanging around with clever people, quietly absorbing stuff, with lots of time to reflect, is a learning style that quite suits me.

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