Better outcomes with different units of measure

Better outcomes with different units of measures - a person measuring a piece of string

How long is a piece of string?

One smart answer would be: Exactly as long as you picture it to be.

My hypothesis is that if you expect the answer to a length question to be measured in millimeters, you would think about a shorter piece of string than if the unit of measure is defined in meters. The unit creates an anchoring effect.

This can be used in a variety of ways when setting expectations and driving behaviors:

  • If lead times are measured in days or weeks it can lead to conversations for a faster time to market.
  • The same can be said for release frequency – measure in days not months, and the number of releases will increase.
  • To get to better, more productive and shorter meetings – make them less than an hour and refer to them in units of minutes.
  • Instead of measuring value in money terms or only focus on cost, define features and goals using metrics that focus on user metrics and KPIs. This will encourage a more customer-centric discussion.


Can you change expectations and behaviors within your own work by setting your goals in smaller or different units?