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Some Things Can’t be Measured

In a previous blog I wrote about Peter Drucker’s famous quote “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” There are posters available of Drucker with these words in quotation marks (I know, one used to hang in my previous manager’s office). There is just one problem with that quote; Drucker never actually said it.

Don’t get me wrong, Drucker was a big advocate of using metrics to guide decisions, but what he actually wrote was: “What gets measured gets managed.”

Measuring results and performance is certainly crucial to any organization’s effectiveness. But far too often this quote is taken to mean “What can’t be measured isn’t worth managing.” This I believe, Drucker would have a real problem with.

Drucker once told a consulting client who had a cable TV business that, “It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. This is something only you can do… It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”

Paul Zak put it nicely when he wrote about Measurement Myopia, “When it comes to people, not everything that goes into being effective can be captured by a metric. Not enthusiasm. Not alignment with an organization’s mission. Not the willingness to go above and beyond… So, measurement, yes. Only measurement, no.”

Liz Ryan also wrote in Forbes saying, “Great employees and great leaders manage the waves all the day, unmeasured and too often unseen. They manage customer relationships in the moment and over the long term. How do they do that so well, without benefit of yardsticks to guide them? We can measure every keystroke, comma and particle until the measurement overtakes the action and we end up spending more time measuring our work than we spend planning or producing it. That won’t make a customer’s heart beat faster.”

So while measurement is still important, we have to understand the limitation of the data we use. The data simply will not tell us everything we need to know. Which brings us to another one of Peter Drucker’s famous quotes (and this one is accurately quoted), “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

This post courtesy of Firm Administrator Michelle Knight

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