The Measurement Imperative


The beginning of the year is always a time of renewal and big plans in business.  For most, it’s when we launch our programs and plans for the year that we hope will transform our organizations and the people within them to make everyone more successful.  In the work we do, one of the issues we constantly confront is how to measure the impact.   We all have heard the quote, “What gets measured, gets done.”  Beyond that, business is increasingly a world of numbers, so we must be able to measure the impact of our work in order to remain relevant and to continue to have the opportunity to make an impact.

I expect that you are going to argue that some of the most important elements within our work can’t be measured.  When we talk about unleashing talent in organizations, we quickly find our way to topics like passion, love, creativity, and purpose.  It’s easy to say that these things can’t be measured.  If that’s the position we chose to take, then I think we are admitting defeat and that we will never make these things a sustainable part of how people work and what corporate cultures should look like.  They  have to be measurable.  Otherwise, we’re dead in the water before we start.  Without measurement, we can’t know if we are making progress.  Without measurement, we won’t know if we’ve made a difference.  I think it can be done, but it’s really complicated.  But I don’t think we have a choice.

Being a pragmatist, the challenge we face as cultural architects or teachers of leadership is that we have limited time, resources and energy to invest in our work.  Generally, that means that we spend our time doing rather than measuring.  While that feels good on the surface and generally gets us paid, I’m not sure it’s moving the needle.  Most organizations have cultures that are as dysfunctional today as they were 20 years ago and their leadership isn’t any better.  We still have bad managers everywhere we look despite decades of management training and billions of management books on the book shelves.

Could it be that until we figure out a way to measure what really matters, that we can’t make the kind of progress we desperately need.  An example of what I’m talking about is the tool which was created by the folks at Quantum Workplace.  They are the leader nationally in doing best places to work and employee engagement surveys.  From their data, they were able to isolate a set of competencies that differentiated leaders who drive the highest engagement.  They then turned those competencies into a leadership model and crafted a way to measure them.  I’m not sure it’s a perfect way to measure leadership attributes, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.  Particularly if you can correlate higher engagement scores to better results within your organization.  That’s where the breakthrough will come.

I know that measurement and metrics aren’t your favorite thing to talk about, but what do you think?  Where does measurement fit into the work we do?