Contacting the Sweet Spot

Never been a fan of management metrics – it’s all too easy for lazy managers to measure what is easy to count, and not deal with what really matters. Even Einstein said “not all that counts can be counted”. However this Forbes piece by James Slavet nails five valuable “metrics” worth assessing subjectively – starting with “Flow”.

[M]ost managers only measure outputs, not inputs, which is like telling a Little League team to score more runs, rather than actually explaining how to swing a bat and make contact with the ball.

BTW I couldn’t believe that the “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” adage could have originated with Peter Drucker, at least not outside some particular context. Good to see I’m not alone in seeing that message as alien to Drucker’s style. I certainly couldn’t find it as an attributable quote – sounds more like an adage created to justify Taylorism to me.

Good to see the actual quote (in a comment response):

“What you measure is what you get.”

As Ed says, “that is very different from the attributed quote. In fact, it is right on target. If you measure billable hours, you will get more billable hours”. You treat people like children / monkeys, you get children / monkeys. (I recall my Master’s thesis concluding something about the need for multiple objective and subjective measures in order not to skew behaviour towards narrow measures.)

Also like this from another actual Drucker quote:

Reports and procedures should be
the tool of the man who fills them out.

A particular bug-bear of mine is reports like time-sheet and expense report systems with UI’s that are formatted the way the report user wants to see things, not the way that is useful to the reporter – eg allocation to cost-centres or breakdown-codes before recording as line-items is a common fault designed to make form-filling twice the chore it needs to be. Reports should always be – this is what I did from my perspective as I report it – with the tools automating the re-presentation of the same information in whatever format management requires.

I only “rediscovered” Drucker relatively recently, since his death in 2006, and largely because I was taken by his debt to Mary Parker-Follett.

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