‘What gets measured gets managed’ is a saying often attributed to Edward Deming(1). It is a saying that, like most managers, you would probably agree with.
More controversially, Deming also said that ’97 percent of what matters in an organization can’t be measured.'(2)
I once heard it said that ‘the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time was the mark of a genius'(3). But could both of these statements actually be true?
Well, buy a few of our data analytics and developers a beer and you are certain of a lively debate on the topic of what can and cannot be measured. Also, on the purpose of measurement in the first place.
However, to understand Deming’s ‘measure-don’t measure’ duality it is worth considering the time period involved. It was a time when measurement meant a clipboard and stopwatch and in particular time and motion studies on the factory floor. But if all you have is a clipboard and a stopwatch then a lot of things are going to be ‘un-measurable’.
I am proud to say, thanks to advances in big data analytics and new methods of measurement from the social sciences, we are making major in-roads to the measurement of things that were previously ‘un-measurable’. Also things that managers once considered ‘intangible’ or ‘soft’.
Here are just 3 examples of things that were previously ‘un-measurable’ that are now being measured by our Pitstop Analytics™ platform:
1. Potential, or what we call performance potential and the ability of an organization to translate talent into performance, innovation and growth (a measure that is called Return on Talent Employed™).
2. Culture – the behavioral dynamics of an organization or team and its impact on everything from task effectiveness to decision smarts and social health.
3. Collective Performance – The nature of teamwork and internal collaboration within an organization and how it impacts on performance, innovation, engagement and even well-being. This is the powerful metric – Return on Collaboration™.
Our pioneering work shows is that even something as precious and ephemeral as human potential can be measured! Not everything can or should be reduced to a number, but numbers can help to better understand and appreciate most things.
In Deming’s time was about control and manipulation. It was Theory X thinking where the worker was a cog in the machine. In the modern age, measurement can be a powerful tool of leadership and empowerment. Then measurement is not just about control, but illumination, understanding and nurturing.
We measure these previously un-measurable variables because they matter – because they impact on performance, innovation and growth for the organization, as well as the level of engagement, growth and even well-being of the individual.
It is not just about putting a number on something, rather we measure to better understand. Measurement is a low bar as far as we are concerned – it is not enough. For example, knowing that your organization’s Return on Collaboration™ is 61% is of little value unless it helps you to understand why and what you can do about it.
The goal of Pitstop Analytics™ is to leverage BIG data to have a BIG impact – presenting analytics it in a way that engages hearts and minds and in so doing fuels performance, innovation and growth. It is measurement that enables leaders and their people to systematically unlock the next 3%, 7% or 15% of their un-tapped potential. That is the kind of measurement that I am sure Edward Deming would have appreciated.
Pitstop Analytics ™ leverages BIG data analytics, to measure, model and unlock the performance potential of ambitious business units, leaders and their teams.
(1) Some suggest that he may not have actually said it, but regardless he was certainly an advocate for the use of data, metrics and measurement by managers.
(2) Quoted in Peter M. Senge. ‘The Dance of Change: The challenges to sustaining momentum in a learning organization (The Fifth Discipline)’, Crown Business, 2014.
(3) This is to paraphrase the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/f_scott_fitzgerald_100572