We measure everything.

With a keen eye on established benchmarks, we consider every implication of a new born’s length and weight, age of the first step, and rate of growth (raise your hand if you remember  marks on the wall noting dates and height).

Speed. Efficiency. Projected earnings. Wins and losses. We measure it all — to determine rank, make judgments and define ultimate success. Or failure.

In social media, the measure is followers, fans and illusive ROI.

Whether driven by a spirit of competition or an effort to define value, applying a yardstick is often the way we delineate and differentiate.

Two Important Questions

Given the degree to which decisions and direction hang in the balance, there are at least two questions worthy of consideration when we set out to measure…well, almost anything.

  1. Are we measuring what really matters?
  2. Can everything that counts be measured?

One word should be sufficient reminder that dusty shades of gray can be manipulated to appear distinctly black-and-white. Enron.

Some might say a name from more current events is as graphic an illustration. Lance Armstrong.

At times, the yardstick can be warped, and the measurement inaccurate.

Sometimes we’re simply measuring the wrong thing. Bigger is not always better. As the saying goes, the race does not always go to the swift of foot

This is not to suggest we should not measure. It is to remind that there are some things for which a measurement tool has not been discovered. And others that may simply be immeasurable.

Measuring What Matters

Stan Phelps, or as his Twitter friends know him, @9inchMarketing, reminds us of an important measure — the “hardest and most difficult 9 inches in marketing” — the distance between the heart and the brain. Explore Stan’s work and you’ll note a distinct focus on measures that make a difference.

Honesty. Integrity. Trust. Friendship. These rarely show up in black or red on a bottom-line.

Measures are essential. But before we make every decision based solely on what can be counted and calculated, we might gain real ground by remembering that some of the most important things cannot be measured.