Is It Important to Measure It?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

“The important stuff can’t be measured.”

These two opposing dogmas seep into management thinking.  I often ask workshop participants, “Are you working on things you cannot measure?”  Twenty percent of participants answer, “Yes.”

I ask for examples and get responses like “customer service,” “improvement projects,” and “employee morale.”  I counter that we have measures for all of those.  Take customer service.    How about customer retention?  Referrals?  Surveys? Average purchases?

For improvement projects, after a project is implemented, try comparing costs, completion time, error rate and the like to the period prior to the improvement.  We have long used absentee rates, turnover, and surveys as indicators of employee morale.

Participants sometimes say, “The measurement is subjective.”

I say, “So what?  It is still a measure.”

I side with, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”  The numbers become your score card.  If the numbers spike downward, everyone knows they have to do something differently.  Upward trends yell out, “Keep doing what you are doing.”

Should an employee say, “You are just interested in hitting your numbers.”  My response would be, “That’s right.  Now we understand each other.”  Look, if we can measure Olympic figure skating to four decimal places, we can measure anything.

2 thoughts on “Is It Important to Measure It?

  1. How much of the measurement is the responsibility of leadership and how much of the measurement should be made up of the day-to-day of the employee the measurement applies to?

    What is the fate of an employee who contributes innovation to the organization and thus operates in previously unmeasured spaces?

    Thank you!


    • Excellent questions. I believe management has the major responsibility for routinely gathering and reporting important measurements (metrics, KPI’s) for a team and for individuals on the team. However, individual team members, I believe, should have a say so about the value of what is collected and what other items may also be of value.

      Should an employee contribute meaningful innovations, not captured in the routine measurements, I would hope that management would recognize the value of the contributions. While we measure practically everything in today’s organizations (and in the world of sports), great leaders (and coaches) recognize individuals’ intangible contributions that contribute to improved team performance but may not show up in the individual’s numbers.


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