Friday, 18 December 2009

No one ever got a pig fat by weighing it

Andrew Templeman of the Cabinet Office is quoted as saying:
“No one ever got a pig fat by weighing it.”

Wise words which are well worth remembering as we focus on improving business performance through measurement and evaluation. All the measurement in the world is useless unless the work gets done, and to a high standard. The measurement is only there to help, motivate and enable problems to be identified. So reporting and execution must be hand in glove (that’s execution of the work, not of the person doing the measurement).

As I rattled through my work this morning armed with a report that helped me measure the task (not a job I particularly enjoy doing) I thought about how I get through my exercise routine. I don’t enjoy that either, and certainly not when I’m out of shape as I am right now. But seeing the counter click forwards to my goal keeps me going – whether on the exercise bike or my report. Getting closer to my target, and that magical green traffic light, was enough to get the job done.

Fattening my pigs (or slimming them down) requires solid work over a period of time. Someone once quipped that dieting is like project management: it’s not much fun, goes on a very long time, and no one notices the results. But measuring the results at least keeps the task, project or pig going.

So although no one ever got a pig fat by weighing it, they did get a good meal by making sure the pig got fed every day. Which is really what performance management is all about: measuring the scraps of work that bring us closer to the goal (or lunch).

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