Elements of Strategy, Part 3: What Gets Measured Gets Done

A steel measuring tape partly extended
Measure twice, cut once

Part three of a series, “Elements of Strategy.” Check back each week for more insights.

No one is sure who said it first: Peter Drucker? Edwards Deming? Lord Kelvin? It doesn’t really matter, because it’s one of the truest things to ever have been uttered about strategy or management: “What gets measured gets done.”

Organizations love mission statements, and they love acting like those statements drive decisions. (they don’t: more on that later) What you’re accountable for drives decisions, whether you’re an admin assistant or the CEO. What you’re accountable for always gets measured.

Some measures are obvious: are sales up? By how much? Others aren’t: are you making the boss look good? How good? One is objective and empirical. The other is subjective and intangible. Either one can mean the difference between a promotion and the door.

Another difference is the degree of clarity each kind of measure brings: sales aren’t hard to measure, and they’re targetable. But what about employee morale? Or institutional reputation? They’re not impossible to measure, but you’ll probably use a proxy to do so, at least until someone defines “units of employee morale.”

And even if they’re difficult to measure, that doesn’t mean you can ignore metrics: ask anyone on the other side of that infamous door.

What are you being measured on, and how do you measure it?

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