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 be.