Admit it – you’ve uttered these words yourself at some point, when you were faced with a goal or result that was rather intangible or fluffy and no measure immediately came to mind for it:
“It’s not measurable!”
Perhaps it was a goal to do with innovation, or stakeholder engagement, or customer relationship quality, or employee well-being, or readiness for change, or leadership, or future sustainability. There are just so many goals and results that, at first glance, seem immeasurable.
So you let that goal go unmeasured, and everyone agrees with you that it’s too hard to measure it. Then you move onto the next goal to see if that’s easier to measure.
But before you do move on, don’t give up so soon on the seemingly immeasurable! I face this challenge with almost every client I work with.
The problem is not that their goal is not measurable – it’s that the language they’ve used to express their goal is not specific enough.
So when someone tells me something’s not measurable, here are seven of my favourite retorts:
1. If that goal were happening now, what would be different?
2. How would you know if you’ve reached that goal or not?
3. How would anyone else be convinced whether or not you’ve reached this goal?
4. Imagine you’ve already reached that goal – what would you be looking at to convince you of this?
5. What exactly is this goal trying to change or improve?
6. What problem is this goal going to solve or fix?
7. If you don’t have this goal, are your or others going to miss out on?
Now you’ve got some more productive alternatives to giving up, next time you here those words, “That’s not measurable!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Barr is a specialist in organisational performance measurement, helping corporate planners, business analysts and performance measurement officers confidently facilitate their organisation to create and use meaningful performance measures with lots of buy-in. Sign up for Stacey’s free email tips at www.staceybarr.com/202tipsKPI.html and receive a complimentary copy of her renowned e-book “202 Tips for Performance Measurement”.
Stacey, it amazes me me how often I hear this from senior management. Measures might sometimes be a little crude, maybe even vague indicators, however you can’t really claim to be managing something if you’re not attempting to measure performance.
Please note there’s a typo in your Point 7.
Supply Chain Consultant
Thanks! I hear this so often, being in Learning & Development, that I do a lot of internal screaming.
Thanks Wayne and Scott for your comments. Hearing that phrase “that’s not measurable” was happening to me with every single client, along with a similar comment “yeah, but how do you measure that?”. We jump to measures too soon, and should instead spend the time thinking to make the performance result we want clear. You can only measure a clear result, not a vague motherhood statement!
I just might print this and put it on everyone’s desk here in IT.
Woohoo, Tammy! What a cool idea. I think we can all take up your idea, more generally. As Performance Measurement Practitioners, I reckon part of our role is to put these ideas (any idea that helps people appreciate that measuring is easier and more valuable than they usually assumed) in front of as many people as we can. Giving them simple articles to read, showing them cool dashboards, telling them stories of how measures have made a real difference, and so on. Let us know how it goes, Tammy.