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The Test of a Good Measure

In Freedom from Command and Control, John Seddon (Managing Director of Vanguard Consulting Ltd., my partners in the UK) outlines three fundamental principles to a good measure for the service industry.  He works off the premise that the purpose of measures and measurement is to gain knowledge by acting on the system. 

This is diametrically opposed to the command and control method of using measures as targets that are arbitrarily chosen and increase variation in the system.  These same targets become the focus of worker’s attention and they learn ways to manipulate the system in order to achieve the target.

So what are the 3 principles of a good measure in a systems thinking organization? Let’s take a look at what Mr. Seddon proposes:

  1. Does the measure help in understanding and improving performance?
  2. Does the measure relate to purpose?
  3. Are the measures integrated with the work?
Targets are motivation killers.  In contrast, understanding how capable an organization performs against customer demands will always focus people on the right things.  The purpose becomes to serve the customer . . . not the target.  These measures also assist in allowing people to experiment with method (i.e., they way they achieve purpose).  In order to gain knowledge on method we have to integrate the measures (and decision-making) with the work.

With the right measures, systems thinking organizations can achieve new heights in business cost reduction and business improvement.  Customers will be ecstatic about these changes and costs will disappear in a vapor.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control management and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.

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