Measuring the Unmeasurable

The problem with measuring performance, is that it’s not always easy to quantify how well you are performing for certain business measures. So how do you measure the unmeasurable?

First let’s consider what these things are. Back in 2013, Stacey Barr’s Measure Up LinkedIn Group created a list of the toughest things to measure in business.

The list included:

  • Brand awareness
  • Business Reputation
  • Sustainability
  • Risk management
  • Helpfulness to customers
  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Employee morale
  • Employee engagement
  • Leadership effectiveness
  • Workforce development

It’s common to see these topics featuring prominently in business strategies, so what makes them so hard to measure? The simple answer is that they are just broad concepts, they aren’t being thought of as the result that you want to achieve. Instead of thinking of ‘improving employee morale’, you should be focusing on what will be accomplished in your organisation when your employees’ morale is boosted.

Additionally, almost every one of those hard-to-measure things contains what the PuMP® methodology calls “weasel words”: engagement, effectiveness, collaboration etc.  These words and concepts can mean very different things to different people. The result you want to measure must be something real – something you can observe. Something that will have a real effect on your organisation’s performance. You need to have proof that it exists before you can improve it!

So the problem is not ‘how do we measure it’ but ‘what needs to be measured’. The key to making the unmeasurable become measurable is to change your language, and be clear on the specific performance results that are a priority to you. Teams need to clearly articulate the results they want to achieve. What exactly is it about morale that you want to change? Is it that employees behave more proactively? Or that they talk about the company in a positive way? What will happen in your company if this is achieved?

Vagueness is the enemy of measurement, and of performance improvement, making it often the reason why those hard-to-measure things appear to be so daunting. To gain more meaningful performance measures, you need to be specific. Describe very clearly the result you want to deliver; the evidence of that result; and the potential measures that will quantify that evidence.

The clearer you are about what you’re trying to achieve, the more meaningful, and measurable, your measures will be!


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