Tuesday, May 1, 2007
You Don't Always Get What You Measure
We’re all familiar with the old adage that “No matter what you do; you get what you measure!” In fact, I must admit that I’ve relied on this a lot as sort of a glib "throw-away" comment on any number of managerial conversations. Too bad it’s not true! In fact, you won’t always get what you measure if you don’t change the other dimensions of the Galbraith Star, or McKinsey’s 7S, or whatever framework you rely upon to think about execution. I write this while attending a corporate workshop that could result in a fundamental rethinking of how one multinational corporation operates, and what’s especially fascinating to me is how ready people are to consider changes in what they measure, but how resistant they are to think about the other concomitant changes that are necessary to allow people to really take full advantage of the promise offered by the new measures. And, it’s not only structural changes that are resisted, but virtually all others. The lesson is quite clear: you don’t always get what you measure, and, in fact, you reduce the probability of getting what you measure, unless you consider changing all of the other variables that are included in the organizational performance equation, including: the skills and styles of the people you are measuring, the way you organize talent to fit the measures, the process and platforms you put in place to make sure that the measurement is achievable and inspiring, and a clear, understandable business strategy that provides meaning to the measures. Only with such considerations, do you stand a reasonable chance of achieving what we all have promised in the past: actually getting what you measure.