In principle, to manage any activity—to know what to do more of, less of, and what to do differently—we need to be able to measure it. We ask, “How is it going?” And to measure any activity we need a measuring stick, something against which to compare.
Some call it “benchmarking,” where progress is compared to:
1. A reference group of similar activities or organizations (like an average or median),
2. One’s own past performance (like how you did last year, or over the past several years), or,
3. A quantifiable goal (like a fundraising thermometer/sign posted in front of the building).
Without anything to compare against, we cannot actually say anything about the success of an activity or how to manage it for greater success.
Practical Tip: When your group decides on a new activity or policy, decide also how you will know if it is successful. Set a goal. Be specific. Write it in such a way that you will be able to know if you achieved it. If possible, state the goal relative to the performance of other similar groups or activities, or relative to your own group’s past performance.
Measuring progress not only helps you manage future activities, it encourages better performance.
– Craig Freshley
Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.
6 thoughts on “Measure to manage”
Thanks for your comments Michael.
I totally agree about the importance of a measurement “system” and continuous improvement.
To this great advice, I would add the desirability of including continuous improvement as a trend measurement. A one-time assessment of current progress is great, a great team plots and measures their way forward to continuous. improvement. A trend worth tracking.
Studies have shown that having a quantifiable goal results in higher success rates in attainment. (I have a great little exercise I use to help teams visualize this…will be glad to share with you). This tip embodies one of my passions around performance.
Janice – Yes, please share your exercise. I have a fun and totally simple group assessment that I use to kick things off on a change discussion.
This is a excellent tip that, unfortunately, too many managers and groups do not follow because it can be difficult to determine objective measurements. In addition, many individuals look down on measurements because in implies winners and losers, which should not be the case or the purpose.
Measuring activity is like riding a bike. Not measuring activity is like riding an exercise bike.