How Measurement Can Cause You to Fail

I’m going to open a proverbial “can of worms.” I want to deal with a topic that is critically important to business yet poorly understood. A topic for which we have much appreciation but little interest.
I could easily write a 4,000-word blog instead of my usual 400 words, but would you stick around and read a 4,000-word blog about measurement? I didn’t think so.
So here’s what I’m going to do. In this blog I’m going to make one, and only one, key point. Then I’m going to let you, my loyal readers, decide which aspect of measurement, if any, I should write about in the coming weeks. Deal?
Here’s the key point:
The number one problem leaders have when it comes to measurement … is they don’t understand the measurement process.
The measurement process? Yes. To be effective, measurement has to be a process, not an event. A process with five critical stages. Messing up any one could lead to decisions and/or actions that are disastrous. Here’s a brief overview:

1 Design

This first stage is when you decide what you want to measure, why, how, and what you intend to do with the data you collect. These foundational decisions are not nearly as simple as they might seem. Poor decisions here, for example, could mean you end up unwittingly measuring the wrong things.

2 Collect

There are many ways to collect data. And there are many ways to collect data poorly. For example, when soliciting customer feedback, not applying proven practices such as personal appeals can result in a low response rate. And that could invalidate your measurement process.

3 Analyze

Once you’ve collected the data, how will you slice-and-dice it, how will you summarize it? Basic statistics, right? Beware. There are some very common errors we make when analyzing data. Over-relying on the use of averages is one of the most common.

4 Interpret

With ever-increasing computing power we now have the capability to analyze more data than ever before. Which, as it turns out, only highlights our relative lack of skill at interpreting what we’ve analyzed. For example, most of us don’t realize how our biases shape our interpretations.

5 Utilize

It’s all a waste of time, money and effort unless we use measurement to influence our decisions and actions. Yet all too often we review the monthly numbers simply to see what happened in the past. That’s rear-view-mirror management. Better to ask the right questions so we can effectively manage towards the future.
That’s it. One key point: the importance of understanding the measurement process.
Now it’s your turn. Which of the five stages would you like me to drill down into and write about? Which one is your organization struggling with?
Reply on social, or email me directly at I look forward to hearing from you!
Make it happen.
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