Measurement Matters: Disciplines of a Learning Organization

The importance and discipline of measurement is hardly exclusive to organizational performance. When we are talking the importance of measurement, we are really talking life skills. Almost everything can benefit from measurement. What would your cake be like if you didn’t measure the right amount of sugar or flower? What would your workouts be like if you didn’t measure the amount of weight on the bench press bar? What would your finances look like if you just purchased things without knowing how much they cost?

Measurement is a part of life success. So why is it that we are often so poor at measurement in our organizations? It seems there are two keys to this answer. First, leaders are often scared to measure. With measurement comes accountability for results, and often people like to avoid accountability. Secondly, measurement takes work. Sometimes it is difficult to concretely measure results for certain tasks or investments, and we don’t want to do the work. Or maybe we simply don’t know how. No matter what your reasoning, if your organization doesn’t have a culture of measurement than you are not being effective. Great organizations understand that measurement and accountability are keys to sustainable success. Here are some keys to effectively implementing and using measurement:

Be Sure Rolls Are Clear
The fear of being held accountable for our actions is enough cause for people to resist measurement, let alone the fear of being held accountable for things that were never supposed to be our responsibility. Be sure that rolls and responsibilities are clear. When you finish meetings, end with a review of action steps and responsibilities. Also, consider using a project management software to make assignments and deadlines clear to the entire team.

Be Sure Job Descriptions Are Clear
All of your people should be able to clearly and briefly describe what it is that they do. If I walked up to any of your people and asked, “what are job responsibilities”, could they answer on the spot without muttering around or looking something up? If you are looking to increase the measurement in your organization, be sure to start by clarifying job responsibilities with everyone on your staff.

Map it and Count it
One of the most common reasons for not measuring is not knowing how or what to measure. First of all, the “how” is really basic. You simply count. It often seems much more complex than this, and in reality it often can be, but always start with this basic principle. All we are really looking to do is count some function. How many customers, how many widgets, how many leaders, or something like this. Secondly, try mapping out a logical progression from action to results if you are having trouble discovering what to measure. If the questions is, “is our leadership development working”, then try getting a team together and mind mapping what that would look like. Better leaders equals happy followers, which would be happier employees, which would mean less voluntary turnover. Or maybe happier employees means less complaints. Or maybe better leaders means happier employees, which means higher employee engagement scores, which means less vacation and sick days. Each organization will look a it differently, but once you have mapped and agreed upon the actions you’ll accept as a result of your efforts, measurement really is just counting those actions in some way.

It’s Always Been There
News flash for you, your organization is not perfect! One of the greatest mistakes leaders make when starting to implement more measurement is overreacting to what they find. Remember, just because you started measuring it now doesn’t mean it just showed up. You have most likely existed with this problem for a while, you just never have measured it before. I’d encourage you to give your people a chance to react and adjust to anything you find. Doing so will create a culture that supports measuring and getting better, instead of a culture of fear and ducking responsibility.

Measurement is a discipline of life, and our teams and organizations can benefit from measurement just as everything else does. If you feel your organization currently does well at measurement, consider the effects it is having. Is it encouraging growth or causing people to duck responsibility? If you are in an organization that is not doing well at measuring, then consider starting now. Start small, and be specific. Once you experience the benefits in small areas, you will learn to more effectively implement measurement on a larger scale. One final thought for you: everything can be measured, but that doesn’t mean it should be. Choose wisely what you measure, and put your efforts and resources into what will give you the most useful information. Is measuring employee tardiness really helping you become a better organization, or is this measurement simply creating a workforce that has lost engagement and simply comes to work to punch the time card? Your measurements will be driven by the information you need to learn to be more effective in achieving your goals. Choose carefully and selectively.

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