Measuring and Assessing

There is a difference between measuring and assessing. Measuring is the piece that we are really comfortable with. We have been told forever that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. So measuring is something that leaders think about constantly. But what if the world becomes more dynamic, and many of the things that really drive success are impossible to measure?

The nice thing about measuring is that it is safe. If I sit in the living room and my wife says to me: “You know, it is really chilly in here?” – And I walk up to the thermometer and say: “Yeah, it´s 63°F.” That is not a very risky thing to do. Assessing on the the other side is an inherently risky thing to do. If my wife and I go out at night and she asks me: “Should I take an umbrella?” And I glance at the sky and say: “No, I don´t think you need it tonight.” – But then, when we are outside, it starts raining… then I am in trouble. I am in trouble, because I made an assessment, and I was wrong. 

It is the same thing in management. We like to avoid the risk that comes with assessing. You cannot believe the kind of sophisticated systems e.g. that I have seen to measure talent. There is a great desire to make the measurement objective and scientific. The alternative of leadership simply assessing their talent is often overlooked completely. I think every leader should be capable of assessing their team members along certain dimensions.

The world is becoming more and more complex. With that increased complexity, things that are not measurable become increasingly important to success. As a result, we have to assess more. But we don´t like to assess, because assessing is risky and therefore takes courage. Any time you assess, you could be wrong. Next time you build a sophisticated measurement system, ask yourself whether you are building it because it is the right thing to do, or whether you are just trying to avoid assessing something or someone!

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