Monday, January 19, 2009

Holy Grail of Measurement

Have you sworn allegiance to the secret management quest?

One measurement to rule them all, one measurement to find them, one measurement to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. 

Should you find yourself trudging through hell and high water in search of that illusive metric then I strongly advise you to rest your wary eyes on What Do We Measure and Why? 

In her superbly crafted writing, Margaret Wheatley warns us that the act of measurement does not instil upon a team the virtues that most managers seek - commitment, focus, teamwork, learning and quality.

[...] these behaviors are never produced by measurement. They are performance capabilities that emerge as people feel connected to their work and to each other. They are capacities that emerge as colleagues develop a shared sense of what they hope to create together, and as they operate in an environment where everyone feels welcome to contribute to that shared hope. Each of these qualities and behaviors-commitment, focus, teamwork, learning, quality--is a choice that people make. Depending on how connected they feel to the organization or team, they choose to pay attention, to take responsibility, to innovate, to learn and share their learnings. People can't be punished or paid into these behaviors. Either they are contributed or withheld by individuals as they choose whether and how they will work with us.

Duly chastised and mocked for our unquestioning belief in measurement as the route to these capabilities she then unveils measurement in it's rightful place.

But measurement is critical. It can provide something that is essential to sustenance and growth: feedback.

Margaret goes on to conclude the article by drawing distinction between measurement and feedback and offering the reader guidelines for designing better measures that fulfil their objective of providing feedback.

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