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The intersection of technology and leadership

You can’t measure everything effectively

Definitely agree with this from the 10 Things I Wish Lean Practitioners Wouldn’t Say in 2010 (via the Lean Blog):

7. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

I don’t believe that statement. I think this phrase should be avoided and it certainly shouldn’t be attributed to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, as it often is mistakenly. Dr. Deming never said this and he, in fact, meant quite the opposite. Some of the most important factors in a system are very difficult, even impossible, to measure. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to manage them. John Hunter, friend and fellow blogger, has the definitive take definitive blog take on this here…

Don’t get me wrong. Metrics are important but they aren’t always most important.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the link. What’s an example of something in your organization that’s important to manage, but is hard to measure??

  2. Just reading “Out of the Crisis” by Deming and one of the diseases he mentions in Chapter 3 is “Running a company on visible figures alone” Disease number5 on page 121.

    He then give nine examples of unknown or unknowable numbers that are nevertheless important to a successful organization. Number one being “the multiplying effect on sales that comes from a happy customer”

  3. Hi Mark,

    Here’s a great example: employee happiness/satisfaction. Important to manage, hard to measure.

  4. Interesting, I always thought that it was Tom De Marco who said that.

    and he has since changed his mind

    http://www2.computer.org/cms/Computer.org/ComputingNow/homepage/2009/0709/rW_SO_Viewpoints.pdf

  5. Patrick – great example. I think many of the employee satisfaction measures are flawed or incomplete…

    Mark

  6. The other parts of this to remember are summed by (Jason) Yip’s Law:

    Anything can be made measurable in a way that is inferior to not measuring it at all

    You can’t manage things you can’t measure because you can not determine if you are succeeding or not. This doesn’t mean that you have to manage it, nor does it mean the way you choose to measure something is effective; indeed many ways of measuring are actually harmful.

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