"Easy to Measure" or Meaningful?

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – Comedy – IFILM

I’m not sure where I heard the expression, but I generally love the sentiment of the phrase:

“Just because it’s easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s important.”

Many of our metrics in the business world fall into that category. Do you have a favorite example to share? Is there a metric that you’re forced to micromanage just because, for example, a software system reports it? Click “comments” if you have one.

A “certain news network” (I won’t mention their name in case you believe the conspiracy theory that my griping is a clever marketing approach) is advertising their morning show as containing less chatter and having more hard news. OK, that’s an admirable goal and I’m sure some customers value that. But then, they unleash a crazy sounded metric — “Stories Per Hour” with a huge “SPH” flying across the screen, as if we should start recognizing that like “SPF.”

If you wanted to maximize “SPH” you wouldn’t go into much detail, then would you? Hence Jon Stewart’s quote (which you can read here if you can’t watch the video link):

“People don’t want a few stories thoroughly investigated, they want a lot of stories barely mentioned.”

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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3 Comments on ""Easy to Measure" or Meaningful?"

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  1. andrewmc says:

    We should measure what’s important not what’s easy.

    Also known as if you measure me stupidly I will behave stupidly.

  2. Mike T says:

    I just had a variant of this discussion with our Subsidiary VP and the Corporate Divisional VP. Our VP even went so far as to say Corporate is using the wrong metrics. The divisional VP (not a strong Lean supporter, but he is learning) relented, saying the metrics may no longer be viable, but they are all we have at this time.

    The bigger the giant, the harder you have to chop at the legs…

  3. Anonymous says:

    pounds / manhour measurement.

    Corporate uses to compare completly different products from small parts that go into dryers to sophisticated engine components to dock fenders for ship yards.

    At the plant level we measure EBIT and Sales per employee but still have to answer questions every month about why our lbs/mh is suffereing compared to some other unrelated widget!

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