I'll never forget an old manager of mine who once told me “What can be measured, can be improved.” I have always felt strongly about the importance of keeping track of results in order to improve. In high school I charted all of my race times for Cross Country and Track and Field into a spreadsheet for 4 years. I used charts to measure my improvement over time during a season and to closely compare improvement on the same tracks or courses. I know I was a freak back then, but this methodical nature has paid me back 10 fold.
If you have ever read any book about goal setting you know that goals must be written down. They must be specific and measurable. If you can't track it you can't achieve it. My sales team understand the importance of this. Every day when they come into my office they see a list of all of my personal and business 2011 goals written on my wall. Next to each goal is either a check-mark or a % of completion. On Mondays or Fridays I update each of my reports (mostly in Excel) to illustrate progress or regression.
Keeping track of the numbers is the very last thing that anyone wants to do. Its time consuming, boring, and hard to justify when a pile of urgent tasks cover your desk and email inbox. Never forget the long term necessity and importance of keeping track of the numbers. Numbers are an important part of every aspect of every business. If you are in advertising you need to keep track of your response in correlation with your advertising spend. If you are in sales you need to keep track of each activity in your sales cycle to track what is effective and what is not, in addition to defining when you are trending high or low in activity. If you are a web programmer, keep track of which activities take the most time so that you can accuratly manage your boss's or client's expectations.
Being methodical about watching the numbers will impress your superiors and your boss. If you are the boss then you know that a large part of your day needs to be engaged in analyzing the numbers. Without a range of measurement you will never be able to make wise decisions to increase productivity or return on investment.
What parts of your business are you measuring well or poorly? Are your tracking methods effective and consistent? Where does your data come from and are you taking the time to read it?