"If you can’t measure it, don’t do it"

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I heard this again today. It’s a mini-mantra in my current company, and I couldn’t disagree more.

There’s a fairly famous Albert Einstein quote: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” (It’s also sometimes quoted as: “Everything that counts cannot be counted and everything that can be counted does not count.” Same difference, and I have no idea which, if either, is precisely correct). Supposedly, this hung in his office. It’s hung in my office — prominently — for several years.

All too often, it seems like we shy away from setting objectives if we can’t think of a way to easily measure them. Then, in practice, we try to achieve those objectives, anyway, because we just know it’s the right thing to do. I’m a firm, firm, firm believer in having a clear (and clearly articulated) vision, then developing a strategy for achieving that vision. Let that strategy be the guiding principle — not the measurability of your day-to-day actions.

Could I be more vague?

I love that Ben and Jerry’s has held firm to their quirky, environmentally conscientious vision for the entire life of their company. Sure, they measure the return on specific flavors, and they measure the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Do they try to tightly measure the effectiveness of their brand? I don’t know…but I doubt it. Their brand is driven by who they are and who they will always be. That counts, but is very, very hard to measure. Yet, it is at the core of their operations year in and year out.

At a more tactical level, we’ve been doing a lot of work around building nurturing programs. There absolutely has to be a core belief that these programs directly add value for the prospect who is being nurtured. If they do that well, then they will drive more business to the company that is doing the nurturing. It’s darn near impossible to measure that value-add to the prospect, so there can be a drift, over time, of just focussing on the business that the nurturing is driving. Proceed with caution! If the unmeasurable — what can’t be counted — aspects of the program do not remain core to every decision, then what can be counted may start to suffer, as “nurturing” starts evolving into “spam.”

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  1. Pingback Gilligan on Data by Tim Wilson » Blog Archive » Sometimes, the Data DOES Paint a Clear Picture

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