The sole purpose of measurement is learning. It is one of
the highest forms of inquiry. Measurement offers reliable and often unexpected
insights into the true nature of things. Further, this knowledge (true
knowledge, if you will) is the key to improvement. Trying to improve something
(a process, a product, yourself, …) when you lack true knowledge only makes
things worse, not better. It is meddling, not managing.
Measurement is a process, of course, and as such requires
all the necessary constituents of any process, namely method, tools, talent,
etc. In addition, for the measurement
process to yield reliable insights, rather than distortions and “noise”, this
process must itself be stable.
A common obstacle to effective measurement is the complexity
of the financial and statistical concepts and in the understanding of how and
when to apply these ideas for optimum
return to the enterprise. This ability to coalesce and distill the
multitude of ideas, formulae, and tools into a simple pragmatic approach for
inquiring into the dynamics and operational behavior of a process or operation
is a hallmark of effective management and governance.
We have implemented many such measurement and governance
approaches for our clients, in a variety of settings and contexts. We have
found that Doug Hubbard’s new book, How To Measure Anything, is an
important step in providing a window into many of these complexities and offers
a variety of straightforward approaches to measurement that we feel preserves
its fundamental role as a vital instrument of inquiry and knowledge.
Finally, when we refer to measurement as a form of inquiry,
we mean a very special type of inquiry, namely inquiry into variation and its
root causes. It turns out that isolating the underlying drivers of variation is
the first step to any sustainable, predictable improvement program. Without an
effective measurement process, management lacks the knowledge necessary to
successfully guide the enterprise from where it is now, to where it desires to