More than likely, you or one of your classmates asked this question in just about every class you took from middle school to high school to college to graduate school and beyond. You might have even asked the question during your company’s training sessions.
I’ve used the question in many other situations. It is a great clarifying question. It is a way to get to what is essential in any situation. Is what I am learning or doing essential to what I want or need to do? It also gets to another point. What exactly is the “test?”
In general, the test is whether you meet your goals, company profits, sales numbers, new client numbers, deadlines, recruits, etc. Take it even farther. Does your individual test line up with your team members’ tests and the organization’s overall test?
Now, look at what you’re learning or doing. It may not be directly tied to the “test,” but it might be helpful in passing the “test.” Also, will what you are doing or learning help your team members or organization pass their “test?”
Asking the question can help in cutting out unnecessary things that organizations tend to keep around just because of practice and tradition. They may be useful or not, but you don’t know that until you ask the question: Will this be on the test?
The question can also help you to see how your work connects to the work of other team members or the organization. A smooth-running team/organization has all its tests aligned. Team members know and understand all of those connections.
This is a serious question that every organization needs to ask. It needs to figure out what is important in how it evaluates its team members. Metrics need to be aligned in an intelligent way. What gets measured, gets done. People will work to the metric, not necessarily for the better of the organization.
There is a story about a company that was getting poor customer reviews for not getting products out on time. After a quick review, they decided that the problem was in the shipping warehouse. So, they decided that they were going to measure how quickly products left the warehouse. Soon, the warehouse reported a steep rise in how quickly products left the premises, but customer complaints grew even more. After looking at the problem again, they realized that warehouse workers were actually meeting the metric. Products were leaving the warehouse … only to be stored just outside the fence before it was finally ready to be shipped.
Here, the company failed to recognize what was actually on the test. Had they asked, will this be on the test, they might have better understood where the problem was. It is a question they should have applied to all aspects of the business, not just the shipping.
It also helps to ask this question of our personal life. Is what I am doing or learning going to be on my test, whatever my test is going to be. What is the test with regard to my family, with my career goals, with my personal development goals, with my spiritual goals, etc.?
When you ask what the test is and what will be on it, you start an examination of your life and your goals. This question helps you in clarifying your life. Only you can ask of yourself, will this be on the test?