Thursday, 12 November 2009

What gets measured gets done

Want to lose weight? Count calories.

Want to get fit? Count miles cycled, rowed or run. Count beats of your heart.

Want to make more sales? Count the number of meetings set, the number of telephone calls made, the number of opportunities in your pipeline.

Want to develop key accounts? Count the training courses your sales people attend. Count the time they spend with decision makers.

Want to make progress on an important project? Count binary milestones passed. Count time spent on the project. Count project reviews. Count meetings with stakeholders.

Whatever you are trying to achieve there will be things you can count that give you an indication of progress. It is only an indication – the number of calories consumed doesn’t tell you whether they came from cranberries or camembert, celery or steak, but total calories consumed is extremely helpful in the battle of the bulge.

It’s the same with improving business performance. Training courses don’t directly increase sales, but over time there is a correlation. Counting sales training attended is very likely to result in improved account relationships and improved sales.

When I was practicing public speaking someone once pointed out that no one had ever been known to get worse through turning up to meetings and giving speeches. Counting the number of speeches given was as pretty good indication of the quality of the speaker. It was no coincidence that the best speakers were also those who had given the most speeches and attended the most meetings.

Making these counts visible has a multiplying effect on behaviour. When you can see the counts, and everyone else can see the counts, it encourages less calories, more miles, more meetings, etc.

So whatever you are trying to improve, finding things to measure is the first step. Don’t worry if your measurements are not a perfect guide to the achievement of an objective, just start by measuring. In my experience of working with a variety of clients, the simple act of measurement often has a dramatic and positive result.

Try it. Start counting and see whether what you are counting doesn’t start thoughts about how you can do it better, faster, or more effectively.


  1. Hi Caroline!
    Good and inspiring (as always). And I agree that you need to measure to improve.
    I think that the examples you mention here are very clear ones and many companies should take note: instead of counting the wrong things or spending time figuring new indexes that don't mean anything and get into "analysis paralysis" which shows fear to make decisions and no business sense.

  2. I do enjoy it when you set these little challenges Caroline. You do provide good food for thought. I'm giving some serious consideration to how I might apply this to one or two areas of improvement for me! Maybe I'll start with one area ... just until I get the hang of it, you understand ...

  3. Thanks for the feedback. Challenges all round - what to measure and how to make them relevant. As always, pitfalls for the unwary and rewards for the well thought out. As always, its a journey ....

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