"There are many ways to measure, but nothing is good"

A lot of what is taught at the university falls into oblivion with time, but the quote in the headline is a problematic problem from one of my old teachers who has remained in my memory. That in itself is not that strange - the memory works so sometimes. What is remarkable, however, is how often in my working life I have encountered the same challenge - the difficulty in measuring the right things and in the right way!

I have a full understanding of the attractive in clear and quantified measures of how well we and our operations are performing and developing. Perhaps this is precisely why we are so easily caught up in monitoring and measuring all possible measures, without having reflected properly on the real business and operational benefits. In particular, I remember one example with a Head of Department, who resolutely argued that the starting point in developing the Department's business plan must be that the goals should be measurable. Measurability was thus of superior business and operational benefit. And this is nothing unusual.

"What gets measured gets done" is called the saying. This indicates that we can control by measurement. What is not as often reflected in is the risk that what is actually measured is also the ONLY thing that is done. Setting the minimum number of pages on a literature list as a yardstick for high quality does not control how many pages the students actually read or the level of the knowledge base. This exemplifies in an excellent way how sloppily constructed dimensions set it for us. Both because we put time and focus on the wrong things, but also that we interpret the measures based on what we think they tell us and thus risk making wrong decisions or triggering unwanted behaviors.

Don't get me wrong here, the intentions of this measurable focus are rarely anything but good, and with the best of the business in mind. But it is important to have the right approach, otherwise it may even mean a bear service for the business. Because before we decide whether the number of pages on a literature list is a relevant measure, we must first have defined our goals, what is relevant to strive for and to follow up and analyze. Only then can we choose the dimensions that give us the answers we need. In some cases, we may conclude that we lack appropriate quantitative measures and then we should rather refrain from measuring than risking creating incorrect focus.

The key is thus to start at the right end and formulate goals that are value-adding for their specific business or business. The purpose of follow-up must always be to provide us with the information we need to steer our business in the right direction, ie what we call business-critical information. It is also important to test the hypotheses that the organization chooses for goals (often called CPIs) so that they are relevant in today's volatile arenas. Otherwise, there is a risk that targets set in January may be out of date as early as March if significant (internal or external) forces have had an impact on operational operations.

In order to succeed with goal setting and choice of dimensions, there are many factors to consider. At Ekan Management, we help companies and organizations identify their value-creating goals, which can steer the business in the desired direction!

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