"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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 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…

  2. 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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