To measure or not to measure

It is the last day of March and I am trying to quantify what I have achieved during the first quarter of 2013. I have to say it is quite a scary thing to do as you realise that although you may have done a lot there is also a lot that has not been done. Those things that you had hoped to do but keep putting off until tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.

Measuring things can be really valuable as it helps to tell you where you are and how that compares to previous days, weeks, months or years. And at work it is essential to know whether things are going in the right direction, whether you are providing a quality service, and whether you are providing value for money.

However, I was reminded when taking part in the latest #swchat on Google+ (check it out here that we have to be careful that the focus remains on what the data is telling us and not on measuring things. The discussion was around change management and the governance of change. Not my favourite subject but I know that on every journey there has to be milestones that we can measure progress against. That doesn’t mean that we may change or deviate on the road we have taken, and we should if feedback requires it. 

For many working in the public sector measuring things has become a way of life. I can understand why, it has been due to the need to demonstrate what is being achieved for the public money that is being spent. But in recent years we have lost sight of the reason why things are measured and have become sidetracked into the task of measuring. In doing that we risk losing what should always be in mind, and that is the people and the service they receive often in traumatic or challenging circumstances.

So what can we do to redress the balance and continue to measure but make sure that we don’t just become collectors of statistics?

It is as important to have the stories about your business that can illustrate what customers feel or think about your service or product. As always it cannot just be about quantity it has to be about quality and how we understand what people are finding when they use the business. These stories can be difficult to uncover when we don’t have money to spend on market research and questionnaires. But then do we need to? There are ways of using what is around us on a daily basis and listening to people’s feedback a little harder. This isn’t just using social media but the day-to-day response from interactions between staff and customers.

The new financial year looms tomorrow and with it there will be more statistics and data. All of which is fine provided we balance it with the stories that will help our organisations to move forward on the journey.


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