Yes, you can measure that

Yes, you can measure that

Thanks to everyone for the shares and retweets and feedback on the last couple of blogs – really appreciate it and it is great to see some of the ideas are resonating with others too.

This week I’m taking a look at the thorny issue of measurement.

I am sure everyone here has heard the famous Einstein quote, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” It’s often used by the non-measurers to justify their avoidance. And I have to fess up as a past member of that particular club.

I didn’t always see the value in the whole measurement mania thing and while I’ve moved past my reluctance, I still think that a small number of key outcome measures can be more effective than a phone book size list of micro measurements for everything not nailed down.

These days I sit more in the not everything can be given a quantitative measure bucket – not everything boils down to just numbers. But there are usually ways to take a qualitative approach. And when you’re talking about the attributes of what you care about, of your brand, qualitative often ends up being the most realistic approach.

To illustrate, I’ll share a story from the terrific monograph by Jim Collins Good to Great and the Social Sectors where he shares the example of the Cleveland Orchestra and its executive director, Tom Morris:

Prior to taking the position, Morris asked two key board members, “What do you want me to do if I come here?” Their answer: make an already great orchestra even greater, defined by artistic excellence.

Tom Morris could not precisely measure artistic excellence, but that does not change the fact that artistic excellence is the primary definition of performance for the Cleveland Orchestra…

“We asked a simple question”, explained Morris, “What do we mean by great results?” Morris and his team tracked a variety of indicators. Are we getting more standing ovations? Are we expanding the range of what we can play with perfection? Are we invited to the most prestigious festivals in Europe? Are tickets in greater demand – not just when we play in Cleveland but when we play in New York? Do people increasingly mimic Cleveland style of programming? Do composers increasingly seek to have their work debuted at Cleveland?”

When you are trying to see if you are moving in the direction of what you care about and bringing others along with you, there will always be measures you can identify that will provide evidence of progress.

I don’t care if you are a traditional business, a social business, a community organisation, an individual, a team – you need things that tell you how you’re doing.

They may not be traditional numerical measures. And that’s just fine. But if you aren’t even thinking about how to track your progress then how do you know if you’re on track?

If your business touts the quality of what you do, but you aren’t applying any measures to track quality (whatever that means for you), then it’s a pretty safe bet that you aren’t keeping that promise consistently.

More and more businesses apply customer satisfaction measures these days, and that’s great and necessary. But it often misses the point.

If satisfaction is the only thing you are looking at and your customers aren’t satisfied, what will tell you where you are off track? Do you really want to wait for your customers to tell you things aren’t going the way you want them to? And if they are satisfied, what opportunities to improve are you missing?

What do your measures need to be and how many do you need? I have no idea – that’s for you. If the example story above tells you nothing else it should be that there are no rules. Get creative. Find qualitative ones if there isn’t a meaningful quantitative one to use. Keep digging and asking “what do we mean by this” until you can attach something to it.

Because while not everything that counts can be counted, it can be measured!

See you next week with “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hype”.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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