Applying Metrics to Increased Observance

The past several months I have been taking some intensive classes for my job. I’m working on Black Belt level certification for Lean Six Sigma (LSS). It’s not some new form of Karate, it’s a process improvement methodology. (

One of the principles involved in LSS is that you can’t tell if your process is improving if you don’t have a way to measure it. (The cover of our text book states “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!”) In fact, that’s one of my LSS projects for my job. My office will be undergoing major changes in the next few years, and we know we’ll be losing people. I’ve developed a way to capture a measurement of skill levels in the workforce currently, and we’ll be making measurements periodically to see if we are losing skills, or if we have enough skills in reserve so when we lose people, we’ll still be able to continue our function.

So what does all this have to do with BeyondBT? In my classes we’ve discussed different metrics to measure for different situations. So I’ve been wondering… are there metrics I can use to measure my growth in increased levels of observance? I can think of various elements, such as now keeping completely kosher, being Shomer Shabbos, etc. But for the most parts they are either/or. I’m doing it or I’m not doing it. (although I did build my way up to them in some cases) Maybe learning? Learning X amount of material one year, Y amount the next year.

Ultimately though, I couldn’t come up with a satisfactory metric to measure this. At least not so far. The closest I’ve been able to come is the feeling in my heart… feeling closer to Hashem, closer to Judaism, closer to feeling “right.” However, none of those are
measurable by any yardstick I’m familiar with. Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be measured; as measurements result in cold, hard numbers, rather than more subjective results. Still, if you have any thoughts on metrics, I’d like to hear them.

8 comments on “Applying Metrics to Increased Observance

  1. There are two things here, setting goals and tracking metrics. I think that tracking metrics is an excellent, useful, objective way to measure one’s activities. Like tracking over the course of a month the number of times you post to a blog from work, the number of times you give your kids positive feedback, etc. What can be wrong with that?

    As far as setting goals, that’s something that could result in trouble, as Ezzie suggests, but that is different from the type of avodah Rav Wolbe suggests, where one does one or two actions per day or per week in a completely new area of avodah that one is working on.

  2. I still wouldn’t apply a metric, even on a personal level. Forgetting that this can still end up leading to comparing others to one’s self, even if one tries to be careful not to, even if a person is successful in only measuring themselves, what good does it do? By setting metrics too high one can become frustrated; by setting them too low one can become too easily content. Best is too work on continuing to improve where necessary and on upkeep where not.

  3. Abe, I didn’t say fooling yourself was inevitable or that it was a reason not to do introspection. But it is a pitfall to watch out for. If your Rav isn’t the type to confide in, maybe someone else is. Your allegation that this sort of relationship with a Rav is an illusion needs some kind of evidence beyond your own experience.

  4. The Kotzker said, “A rov iz a fever, un a y’rei shomayim iz a boch veitug,” (a rabbi is a fever and a G-d-fearing person is a stomache ache) — meaning that you can test a rabbi to determine how extensive his Torah knowledge is, just like you can use a thermometer to measure someone’s temperature; however, there is no way to verify another person’s Yiras Shomayim, just like you can’t measure the degree to which someone else is experiencing a stomache ache.

    Accordingly, I would propose that if one is interested in getting an honest assessment of his Torah knowledge, he could find a Talmid Chochom and ask to be tested.

    With regard to Yiras Shomayaim, though, there is probably no quantitative metric. But, one can still daven to Ha-shem that he should be able to truly daven to Ha-shem.

  5. If you are working on yourself in a specific area, I think that metrics would be helpful; Rav Wolbe in Ali Shur bases kinyan of specific middos on maasim ketanim, a specific action to do a specific number of times in a specific interval. And a daily cheshbon haNefesh is something that the baalei mussar also speak about. Bob, I don’t understand your point about fooling yourself; it’s certainly better to try to rate oneself than do nothing?!? I don’t know that many people close enough to their Rav to get objective feedback about their personal avodah, and a few who do think they have a close enough relationship with their Rav — unfortunately, they’re the ones who are fooling themselves.

  6. If you impose your own metrics and also rate yourself, it’s possible to get fooled. Maybe a Rav you’re close to can give a periodic qualitative assessment, but he’s also relying on your input to some degree.

  7. Ezzie, that’s a good point. I should have specified that potential measurements in this case would be on a personal level and apply only to me. Someone else’s measurement would apply only to them. Since no two people are alike, there would never be an apples to apples comparison. Plus the goal is not, as you said, show one is “Frummer than Thou.” Same goes for when I said “closer to feeling “right.” I meant on a personal level to me, and each individual. What’s right for me is not what’s right for someone else. Everyone has their own path to take. I’m just wondering if there is a way to track how I’m doing on the path, am I moving? Slowing? Walking in place?

  8. Good post!

    I think that some things are not supposed to be measured; when we start measuring them, we end up running into problems (Frummer than Thou, etc.).

Comments are closed.