How to Avoid Adopting Meaningless Measurements

How to Avoid Adopting Meaningless Measurements

How to Avoid Adopting Meaningless Measurements

Meaningless measurements waste time. However, measurement offers crucial insight and reports on the success of strategy. Measures report the walking of a chosen path or not. Measurements determine personal and organizational performance. How do people and organizations differentiate between tactical and strategic measurements? And what is that an important question?

Use strategy creates context.

Take a typical organization with some grass out front. The grounds crew cuts the lawn weekly. They also lay down fertilizer, kill moss and weeds and keep trash off the grounds.  Success comes from executing an assignment week-after-week. While those goals may prove important to the local team working at that facility, they don’t have much strategic importance.

But in a different strategic context, they might.

Presenting the grounds in an appealing way for a museum helps attracts and retain members. Strategy speaks to member retention. Members desire an association with a good looking museum. Lawn maintenance remains a subgoal, but the execution of weekly tasks alone won’t determine success. Success requires an aesthetic design executed well. It means no dead plants, no misplaced bricks, or sidewalks torn-up by tree roots. It means creating and executing a survey to determine if the perception of the grounds meets the expectations of patrons sold on aesthetic appeal. Measurement against design and perception becomes just as important as the execution of the grass cutting and tree pruning.

Strategy creates context. It helps organizations decide if a measurement rises to a level of importance.

On Disney properties, the strategic imperative clearly runs to the latter case. Efficiency is good, but only in the context of the greater good. If it were all about being efficient and saving money, then the designs would be simpler, the grounds not so elaborate or as hard to keep. At Disney, the grounds are part of the experience, and they measure the totality of the experience, not just the speed with which the job is executed.

Many people who employ gardeners talk about the “blow and go” mentality. Those gardeners base their business plans on volume and throughput. If that is what you want, then you should hire someone who “blows and goes.” If you want an experience at home, you hire someone, for a higher cost, who helps create and maintain an experience.

We all make strategic choices, we just don’t know it. Before measuring something just to measure it, determine if the measure is strategic or not—does it rise to the level of organizational concern, or do delegation and local management suffice? The lack of a strategic context makes that choice difficult.


For more serious insights on measurement see How to Define Quality of Service for Meetings.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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