A classic business adage goes that we manage what we measure. This is as apt today as the day that it was said mainly because merely recognizing positive or negative trends gives us the impetus to evaluate the way in which our behaviours affect the successes we achieve. Nonetheless measuring performance in business is often a much harder undertaking than it would at first appear.
Business is all about competition and primarily competitive advantage but, as opposed to sport, there is no league table for us to declare the victors. There are no such things as games for people to decide the winner nor encounters or cup competitions to inspire us to glory. The dimensions of success are often very little more than the profit and loss sheet and whether we beat last year's turnover.
In sport, on the other hand, it's now possible to determine all aspects of performance from the counters that let us know the yardage covered by every footballer to the slow motion replay that enables us to review every single tackle and comb over the minutiae of incidents with a microscopic lens. This atmosphere can often feel as though living inside a pressure cooker for those involved but the success is apparent for all to see. Sport continually breaks new ground as well as records and the measurements are precise. Golfers are hitting the golf ball tens of yards further as compared to 4 decades ago; runners are running quicker than ever before; teams are healthier, much better prepared with greater knowledge of the techniques required to win crucial games.
This is measuring performance taken to the limit and with the money involved who can blame them? But imagine if the exact same methods were made available for business? Information Systems in business are generally found wanting in ways that may be alarming. When not falling behind the various tools which exist in a number of Management Info Systems are not used to their full extent, if at all. Not having the ability to determine how well an individual performs will result in a sloppy work ethic and a demotivated member of staff.
Let's suppose we possessed the time and resources to go over vital client dealings, going over what was talked about, what selling methods were used, what body language had been on display? Imagine if we could count each and every step our workers take or discuss each and every decision made in detail?
The simple truth is we're a long way from applying such systems. Anytime an organization decides to measure performance by engaging in something similar (putting a monitor on a work car for example) it might face action from disgruntled workers shouting about rights to privacy. At the very least the affected members of staff may get demotivated as a direct consequence of an apparent absence of trust from head office thus doing more harm than good!
But as managers we can at the very least dream...