What We Measure Matters

30 paces. That single metric has affected hundreds of millions of people. It's the distance that Walt Disney learned people would walk to throw away trash. Receptacles (that Disney designed and patented BTW) throughout Disney parks are typically no farther apart than 30 paces.

We need to regularly ask ourselves if we are measuring what matters—and—if what matters most can be measured. ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership's research in the 7 Measures for Success notes that being data-driven is one of the hallmarks of remarkable associations. Metrics and numbers are at the heart of methodologies like The Balanced Scorecard. But numbers without nuance can lead us astray.

The February 15 New York Times Magazine had a fascinating article about Houston Rockets player Shane Battier, "the no stats All-Star." While pretty unimpressive by all conventional basketball metrics, Battier on the court makes his team play better and other teams (and even superstars like Kobe Bryant) play worse, often much worse. Comparing the usual basketball player stats, however, would not suggest Battier's value.

And authors Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers also suggest that not everything that matters is truly measurable, challenging us to thoughtfully consider our biases and examine: What are the problems in organizations for which we assume measures are the solution?

Since numbers won't always tell the full story (on a personal level, think about weight versus body mass), it is imperative that any decision made includes an answer to the question: how will we know we are being successful?