...the scores we keep

The scores we keep might reveal pretty interesting information about us. As MBAs, we probably pay attention to quite a few ‘scores’ around us. The S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ indices tend to be favorites while taking Finance classes –and beyond, especially if we own a 401(k), IRA, or another investment account. But we also tend to keep sports scores such as the win-lose record of our favorite sports team or players -professional, college teams, high school, little league, you name it... our score-keeping often may reveal our geographic affections, preferences, some of our entertainment leanings -or even parenting strategies!-, in addition to the obvious: the sports we like.

The entertainment industries -sports, movies, book publishing, etc.- make it easy for us to keep scores, perhaps as a way to attract and keep our interest in a world that is constantly competing for our attention -and our dollar! In other industries (for instance, retailing, staffing, or in specific business-to-business supply-chain links), 'keeping the scores' may be much harder unless we subscribe to specialized publications or related tracking services -a very smart thing to do if our business is in or depends on how well those industries are doing.

If we do not actively pursue business intelligence indicators for our livelihood, what kind of management style are we de facto choosing? Certainly not a very factual one...

And then there are the individual-level scores we keep: they may be strongly work-related, such as our department's performance levels (balanced score-card, anybody?) or our firm's progress toward its quarterly or yearly goals. Or they may be very personal, such as our golf handicap, latest cholesterol level reading, or most recent time running Cooper’s two-mile test.

What scores do you keep? Are there other score types you would rather not keep?

I guess the only area in which score-keeping is not recommendable is in family relations; it might be developmental or even necessary to 'keep the score' with respect to our family financial goals, but not in terms of the times a family member left the toothpaste or towels out of place or the entertainment center on before going to bed. Even if one has to take specific steps to modify uncomfortable behaviors in ourselves or those around us, keeping those scores is likely to be counterproductive.

There seems to be a psychological benefit to keeping scores. Our own competitive nature tends to pay closer attention to whatever we are counting, in an effort to improve during the following cycle. As the summer months are -finally!- approaching, I invite you to keep the score on the number of steps you walk every day, on the number of dates you have with your significant other, on the “positive” moments (however you define them) you spend with your family, and why not? Also on the number of days you felt you made a difference at work, or the number of favorable interactions you had at work with coworkers, customers, suppliers, or other interesting stakeholders. Write those scores in a grid and track your progress day after day, week after week, month after month… soon you will be trying to improve, and hopefully you will increase the feeling that you are more in control of those important issues in your life.

I can tell you from personal experience! I carry a pedometer in my belt, and every night I write the number of steps I walked. Even if I rarely succeed in walking the ten thousand recommended daily steps, I can tell you that I have observed a stronger commitment to walking rather than driving whenever I have the chance. I hope that this will also translate into a longer and better life, as medical advice suggests! That is not the only ‘score’ I keep in a methodical fashion, but that might be the topic for a future column.

As always, I invite you to share your thoughts on these issues by emailing me (drolivaslujan@gmail.com), faxing (+1.814.393.1910), or posting a comment on this blog (click on the hyperlink below). Best regards!