What Gets Measured Gets Done

Ever heard the phrase “What gets measured gets done?” It gets tossed around when someone is trying to convince you of adding a metric to your project or scorecard. It sounds good, doesn’t it? If we can measure X, then we will achieve the performance we want.

It is not that easy. Simply measuring something does not ensure that some action will then take place. Consider a rain gauge, which measures how much rain has fallen (+/- evaporation, which may be calculated based on temperature and humidity). Nothing gets done, however, just because you have measured the rain. Nothing gets “done” by looking at the rain gauge.

So measure something that needs an action attached to it. Let’s assume you have a garden that needs water to survive and produce food for your family. In this example, the only way to ensure that “what gets measured gets done” is to program a piece of machinery to execute a set of commands based on the rain gauge’s measurement. Now you have a moisture gauge that is linked to your sprinkler system that controls the length of time the sprinkler runs based on the amount of rain received that day.

There is a lot more that goes into any process than just measurement. There are three fundamental practices that are needed for your scoreboard or dashboard to be effective:

  1. The goals and metrics you are measuring have to align with corporate goals. If they align with your overall strategy, those goals and metrics still need to pass the “gut check.” Does it make sense? If I do this, will I get the results that I want?
  2. Demonstrate the link between the metrics and the overall corporate goals. Just because they align does not mean that the people performing the work see that connection. This link to overall company performance is key. The metrics/goals must be simple enough that each person sees that the tasks they work on each day impact the overall company’s performance.
  3. Leadership has to follow-up – simply measuring something will NEVER ensure an action (or actions) “gets done.” Leadership must review, challenge and provide feedback on the work being done. All work fails if the people performing the work don’t feel like they are part of the team. Employees will care about results because leadership cares about them.
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Use the phrase “what gets measured gets done” with confidence and know that your dashboard/scoreboard will achieve the desired results – what gets measured makes sense, aligns with goals and is followed-up upon.

Comments 10

  1. Jay

    I have ofter used a similar phrase. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

  2. Tyson Diller

    Very true; good article.

    However, any article using a variation of the quote — I think — merits attribution to the original quality and management guru who helped create what it is we do today: W. Edwards Deming.

    “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” – W. Edwards Deming

  3. Dimitris Georganas

    So measuring things is just a matter of ” point of view”.
    We can dig deep in to variables that we can measure but there will another one and another one…
    And there will be always a variable that we will never achive to fully measure…humman.
    We have a joke in the company that I work,when we want to pick the reporting officers,we ask them to make a prediction of how many agents will be sick in three months deep and for how long…measure that.

  4. Ravindra Joshi

    I have often used the phrase “What can not be measured can not be improved”

  5. Andrea Tosi

    This principle is exactly behind the Repeace project.
    As far as social change no protest has any purpose unless it has a clear demand and the demand can be measured and be big enough to exercise the needed pressure on our institutions.

    This was also written in Bernays’ famous book: Propaganda
    –“A desire for a specific reform, however widespread, cannot be translated into action until it is made articulate, and until it has exerted sufficient pressure upon the proper law-making bodies. Millions of housewives may feel that manufactured foods deleterious to health should be prohibited. But there is little chance that their individual desires will be translated into effective legal form unless their halfexpressed demand can be organized, made vocal, and concentrated upon the state legislature or upon the Federal Congress in some mode which will produce the results they desire.” —

  6. Jason

    A great perspective on the classic role of accountability. It is important that going into any system or work event establishing the accountability system before hand and following up by leadership during and after the process is important.

  7. Ronan Leonard

    Too often we measure the wrong metrics. As Steven Covey used to preach we need to focus on the wildly important goals and measure them vs the easy wins. Although if you have limited accountability you can begin with the easier ones just to build up the habit of measuring.

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