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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Measure to Achieve Goals

"Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can't measure something, you can't understand it. If you can't understand it, you can't control it. If you can't control it, you can't improve it." - H. James Harrington

The book "How to Measure Anything" by Douglas Hubbard is a great read to understanding the measurement ability we all have to estimate even when they can seem challenging and daunting.  The following are four useful insights:
  • First, your probably not the first person to attempt any particular type of measurement.  Research may throw up some useful examples of how others have previously done it.
  • Second, you probably already have more information than you know.  Most of us don't realize how much data we already track in our organizations. 
  • Third, you may not need as much data as you imagine to reduce uncertainty behind a particular decision.  The first few observations are usually the highest payback in uncertainty reduction for a given amount of work.
  • And finally, additional information is likely more accessible than you realize, by just thinking outside the box about possible measures.  An orchestra, for instance, was able to measure its improvement in performance merely by counting the increase of standing ovations it received.
Hubbard also shares his measurement process:
  • Project preparation, including initial research, the identification of experts who will contribute to the process and the setting up of workshops to explore the subject.
  • Identifying the problem to be analyzed and the factors that will matter in making a decision.
  • Calculating the value of information on each variable to decide which ones are worth focusing on.
  • Agreeing on the measurement techniques, including decomposing, sampling and experiments.
  • Performing the measurements and updating your understanding of the problem and decision variables.
  • Implementation of decisions that flow from the measurements.