I thought I was going to be a research statistician, the nerdy mathematician kind. But that lasted all of 18 months. I’m really a measurement expert. But quite possibly, beyond that, I’m a truth seeker. Everything I’ve done in the field of performance measurement (and life in general) was done in the context of getting as close to knowing as possible, as close to fact about how things really work, to make better choices.
Getting to this realisation has necessarily taken me my entire adult life, so far. But getting to this realisation, in this way, is why PuMP is what it is now. When I reflect, I can see distinct stages:
Natural talent: Maths was always easy for me in school, without study. But so was story-writing. My teacher thought that a weird combination, and I loved both. (I had no natural talent, however, for social skills. Birthday parties terrified me and I was useless at team sports. In numbers and words was where I hid from people.)
Starting somewhere: It seemed logical to start a career through maths. I majored in pure maths and statistics at university. I became a research statistician in 1990 and systematised myself out of a job by writing programs to automate even complex survey design and estimation procedures.
Finding focus: I left research and became a corporate performance professional in Queensland Rail, but there was no body of knowledge about performance measurement to guide me. So I started learning by trial and error, about the technical side of measurement and the more important social side. PuMP was conceived here, as the result of a slight obsession with systematising, and turning what I learned into step-by-step techniques.
Stepping up: PuMP was my baby. And I was ready to leave corporate life, hours at a desk, thought police telling me what I should do. I started my own consulting practice in 1999, but with the idea that every client would need a bespoke KPI approach of their own. One of my first clients, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, cemented PuMP as a solution that worked for them. With more clients over the next few years, I came to trust that PuMP worked for everyone.
Growing out: Selling a crusade is hard work. Growing and engaging my market became as much a part of my job as facilitating PuMP for my clients. I started to find leverage, ways to reach more people with the ‘practical performance measurement’ message. PuMP became a training workshop, and demand grew to a point where I was starting to burn out from too much delivery and travel around the world.
Letting go: I stopped faclitating PuMP for my clients in 2014, and stopped teaching PuMP three years later. A few PuMP fans around the world encouraged me to license them, so I systematised a way for them to deliver PuMP instead of me. And I’ve learned that PuMP is delivered better by them.
Being true: Licensing PuMP to others also taught me that the work I love most is making my best ideas useful and usable to others. I love thinking, systematising, and leveraging. This trio is a clue that I’m not a consultant or trainer or coach or mentor. I am a leveraged author.
The leveraged author doesn’t just write books. They turn their thoughts into software applications for human brains, that others can download into their own brains and quickly know exactly how to do something that they couldn’t before. It’s like doing the work in a space and time completely separate from where the work has its impact. It’s letting the work emerge vicariously through others.
There are a specific set of skills for the leveraged author, some of which come naturally to me, some I’ve had to learn, and all of which I’m continually striving to master:
- Thought leadership: the quality of thinking, listening, and observing. Then thinking even more. And thinking deeply about the one thing, without distraction. For me, it’s KPIs and performance measurement.
- Design: making the concepts produced by that thinking accessible and usable for others. Practicality is paramount. PuMP and EBL, and how they are delivered, are my design.
- Continuous improvement: testing, tweaking and not stopping the evolution, the search for just enough simplicity, and the even harder search for elegance.
- Left and right brain synergy: letting creativity dance to the beat of the scientific method. This, for me, is about appreciating how to blend the technical and human sides of measurement into PuMP and EBL, particularly making it do what it should in a practical, engaging, meaningful way. And of paramount importance, measurement without judgement.
- Education based marketing: sharing – freely and generously – ideas that others would charge a fee for. Selling a crusade, not a product. This is what the Measure Up newsletter is for, and my webcasts and whitepapers and books.
- Lateral leadership: more important than a market is a tribe, and more important than building marketshare is building tribe engagement. Measurement is hard for most people, and we get strength from banding together to inspire and be inspired.
Minessence is my obsession, one of my deepest values. It’s about turning abstract concepts into practical applications that help people. It’s the force that’s driven everything I’ve done in my work. I couldn’t bear to create another ho-hum run-of-the-mill superficial approach to KPIs, and then ask people to pay for it. I was so uninspired and put to sleep by what others in this field were doing (and still am). So PuMP had to be uniquely relevant, practical, and powerful enough to irreversibly change the way people think about measurement. This is my quest, the quest of the leveraged author, and the skills above are what help me the most.
I am not a consultant or trainer or coach or mentor. I am a leveraged author. As an introvert, if I turn up to train or facilitate a group masterfully, and am deeply vested in the impact I have, I am easily and repeatedly drained. An introvert’s best work isn’t done this way. It’s done in the quiet forest or home office, with the time to think without deadlines, the space to create without thought-police or opinion-pushers. It’s how I reckon I’ll have the biggest impact I can: in a quiet, thoughtful, deliberate, analytical, sometimes anti-social, but unwaveringly focused way.
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