Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does Anyone Understand?

In two of my last three posts I have been writing about how important it is to measure if you are trying to manage something - e.g. a team, a department, a process. I have been sharing an old management adage that drives home the point I am trying to make. This week I will be revealing the third and last aspect of that adage. Here is the entire statement:
  • You cannot manage what you do not measure
  • You cannot measure what you do not define
  • You cannot define what you do not understand
There it is. Plain and simple. But, that's the interesting thing. I find that many times the things that are very simply stated, even intuitive, are often much more difficult to implement or realize than they originally appear.

What makes this last phrase so hard is that it is deceptively simple. We often think we understand something, but we really don't. What usually happens is that we understand just enough to be dangerous. Good managers go beyond the surface. They dig and work hard to understand the intricacies and nuances of the team's dynamics or the process. They make as few untested assumptions as possible.

This is important, because once you have a truly understand all the variables, at least to the degree possible, you can much more accurately define what you want to measure and develop a good method of measurement. Once all three are in place you have the ability to begin managing - i.e. reasonably controlling the outcome. More next time...

What questions do you need to ask about what you are trying to manage that you haven't asked? What assumptions have you made that need to be validated? When your results vary, do you understand why?

Seize the day!

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