Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Core Values Part 3 - Make Things Better

Earlier this year we held our summer company party. At that party we take time to recognize team members that best personify the 5 Core Values of Newmind Group. Those 5 core values are: Be Awesome, Get Stuff Done, Make Things Better, Make Mistakes, Rest and Reflect. This is the third article of our Core Values series, written by Newminder Dan about Making Things Better. Enjoy!

We should all strive to "Make Things Better." In the day-to-day scramble of getting stuff done, it’s easy to lose focus on why we do what we do. Taking a moment to dive deeper into our daily tasks can open up opportunities for improvement and make us indispensable.

At Newmind Group we try to pay attention to everything we do, and to always get better at it. I’m a marketer and as such I have many tasks that can be measured and improved. One of which I’ll use to illustrate this core value - increasing traffic & engagement with our website.

So, let's get to the "Make Things Better" cycle.

1) Know Your Goals

The first step toward making things better is knowing your goals. Being able to define why you are performing a task and knowing what to measure will help you stay focused. Answer the following questions to help understand the task you are trying to improve:
Why are you doing it?
What should you measure to show it’s being done well and improving over time?

My goal is to create content that is valuable to our clients and website visitors. I know our clients expect the best from Newmind Group, and high value. The more value I can provide in our content, the more our clients and online visitors learn. The hard part is understanding how to measure that - what metrics show that the content I create is valuable? I can count pure visits, unique visitors, pageviews, and a plethora of other data. For this specific goal I use 3 metrics: repeat visitors, pages per visits and time on site.

With each revolution of the cycle, be sure to redefine your goals and reevaluate what metrics you are using. Over time you may find that the reason you are doing something changes and that different metrics provide you more meaningful insights into your performance.

2) Do Something

This step is really simple. Do the task you are trying to improve. Don't forget to implement your measuring techniques.

Before I write and publish new blog posts I have to be sure I can track the 3 metrics I defined above. Google Analytics helps me out there. Now I just publish new content and let Google do the tracking.

For more information check out "Getting Stuff Done".

3) Measure

You know what to measure and have already completed the task you're looking to improve. Record your measurements in a safe location, in a repeatable fashion, so that you'll be able to go back and see changes over time.

I publish at least 1 new article a week, so I measure my metrics once a week. As Google Analytics does all my tracking, all I have to do is log in and start digging into the numbers.

You may find that the metrics you want to employ may not be measurable or that your measurements are inaccurate. Leave yourself a note about why, and what needs changing, so that the next time you reach step 1, "Know Your Goals," you can address the issues, change tactics, and implement better measurement techniques.

4) Learn

Optimally, this is best to do after a few weeks or months of recording measurements, because over time you'll be able to spot trends and pull insights from the numbers. If the task is completed daily you may be able to see a trend after only a few days, but if the task is only performed monthly, you may need to wait a while before you can extract any worthwhile insights.

I’ve been writing articles and tracking data for our site for about 6 months and can learn a lot from the metrics I follow. Here’s how I use my numbers:

  • Repeat Visitors - Over time if there is a trend of this increasing, then the content we are providing must be seen as valuable and is resonating with those repeat individuals
  • Pages per Visit - Visitors will only visit more than one page if they believe that there is something of value on the page they are clicking to. The more pages per visit, the more valuable the content is.
  • Time on Site - Website visitors today are very keen on recognizing valuable content and will click away if the page they land on is not valuable. If I can increase the time on site then I know that the content I am creating is worthwhile.

A quick note about learning from your metrics - never use singular metrics to answer larger subjective questions like “value”. If I only look at “Pages per visit”, this number could mean web site visitors are not finding the content they want and are exploring the site trying to find it, but when this is coupled with returning visitors and time on site a larger, more complete picture is painted.

That's it. At first, pick an easy task to measure, and one that repeats quite often, like “how long does it take me to clean and respond to emails in my inbox.” This will force you to go through the cycle often and practice picking metrics (like length of time, number of emails responded to), measuring and pulling insights. Over time you'll make little improvements and get better at your job, relationships, or really anything you apply this process to.

Other Notes

Just going through this cycle will show you where you can improve, but sometimes we don't always have the answers on how to improve. To continuously come up with new ways to improve, be sure to read a lot, use social media to follow others (especially those that are more advanced than you or industry leaders), connect professionally (either online or through professional networks), and be sure to find time to relax and let the mind wander.  Good ideas come at the most unlikely moments. 

Daniel Proczko has been working with organizations and individuals to build & grow the entrepreneur community of Kalamazoo, MI. From organizing TEDx events, hack-a-thons, and documentary screenings to engaging with business leaders, Dan strives to inspire individuals with new ideas and better thinking.

Having always been interested in tech and understanding the value of innovation through IT, communicating the importance of strategic IT thinking is one of Dan's primary goals within Newmind Group.