I have long been an advocate for performance measurement … as a way to motivate people (including myself) to get things done. In fact, one of my leadership mantras is “What gets measured and publicized gets acted on!” But if you’re going to make performance measurement work in a way that will create positive intended outcomes, then you have to make sure that you’re using the right benchmark.
It is better to have no timepiece than one that is wrong
An old mentor used to say to me: The worst kind of timepiece is the one that is wrong. Think about it … if you don’t have a watch, then you are well aware that you don’t know the time. So you know that you don’t know – conscious incompetence – and that is valuable information. And then, if you really want to know what time it is, you’re going to find someone who has a watch, and ask.
But if you have a clock that is erratically fast or aimlessly slow (and you don’t realize that the problem exists), your natural inclination will be to accept the time you see at face value and assume that it is correct. Which will, sooner or later, lead you into trouble.
Which is exactly the danger in having the wrong benchmarks to measure performance. If they are the wrong benchmarks and you don’t realize it, you are nevertheless likely to continue to monitor the wrong data and make decisions on that basis. Because that’s what the clock says. Even if the clock is wrong. In reality, it might be better to not measure anything at all. At least that way, you know that you’re not measuring, and that’s better than measuring the wrong things.
So what timepiece are you watching? What are you measuring? Are your benchmarks the right ones? Remember, keeping track of the wrong data is worse than not keeping track at all.
As always, I would love to hear about your experiences. What are the benchmarks that you are tracking? Are they the right ones? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.