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  • Writer's pictureGuy Liddall

Decide on your goal before you decide your measure (Part 2)

I talked last week in my blog about measuring the right thing. In an age where we can measure everything, track everything, find out anything there is a real danger that the really useful stuff gets lost in the mass of stuff we know. And if we don’t start out by measuring the right thing the results are useless (look up the Mars Climate Orbiter for a serious measuring mistake – NASA had asked for the thrust to be measured in metric, it was measured in imperial and so it crashed – just the odd $600m later). I talked about an imaginary Football league, but it was parable for elsewhere. Today whole industries are doing the equivalent of testing footballers for cricketing skills, downhill skiers for juggling skills. Because we are assessment crazy, wanting an impartial test to take away responsibility for decisions on real people, without using the best measure of future success; past performance. It is happening in the Health Service, in Education and of course in the automotive industry. There is nothing wrong with the tests or the testing procedure, so long as you are measuring the right things. Even more importantly, so long as you are looking at the results and then seeing how it is impacting on your business and then adjusting the model. Or put it another way, while they are getting very good and scientific at measuring, are they just poor at choosing the important things to measure? Which is how you end up with Staffordshire Hospital Trust. Or how schools ended up a few years ago when league tables were pretty well just based on their GCSE results. Bright pupils weren’t able to take exams early, or take extra subjects, because they would do worse than concentrating on fewer subjects. And less talented kids were pushed away for the same reason. I am not against testing, assessment or examinations. But make sure the right things are being measured, the right behaviours rewarded and you might just get things right.


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