by Dov Seidman
In modern business, perhaps the most sacred management adage is that what you measure is what you get. Therefore, it follows, you must manage what you measure. At the same time, Albert Einstein cautioned that, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.” All of these sayings contain both truth and wisdom that apply to this day, but as we forge ahead in a new century, we have yet to come to grips with what is, perhaps, an even deeper truth.
Our metrics—what and how we measure—are a window into what we value and, by extension, our values. Now more than ever, we must stop to reexamine and reconsider what it is we value and pursue as it informs and guides us on our unfolding journeys. This challenge to stop and think is one of the most important that organizations and those who lead them have ever had to contend with. More than that, the stakes have never been higher because, today, we live in a reshaped world.
Technological disruption has radically reshaped our reality, faster than we have yet been able to reshape ourselves, our institutions and our leadership. Now, new things matter. Power has taken on a horizontal structure. Authority no longer comes from a title but from connection and shared values with those that lift leaders up. More than perks or pay, what really drives employee engagement and inspiration are deeper connections: shared values, a sense of deep purpose and a foundation of trust.
In order to build the human relationships necessary to scale truly sustainable businesses, executives must stop to ask different, deeper questions, not about what we are, but “how” we are.
Although, generally speaking, organizations’ inner workings are more visible and public trust is lower than ever, most companies still focus too heavily on their external—“how much”—performance measures at the expense of their internal—“how”—ones. To put it another way, instead of asking “how much revenue are we making,” why aren’t more leaders asking things like “how deep does trust run in our company?”
While “how much” measurements—ROI, revenue, employee engagement, etc.—are still necessary, they are no longer enough. They are reactionary rather than proactive, reflecting the effects of a company’s programs, policies, and actions, without examining where or how they came about. These measures fail to provide a full picture of HOW an organization actually operates.
With this in mind, what we currently measure is part of business’ human problem: standard “how much” metrics reflect a value system out of sync with the reality of the world we’re living in.