“In god we trust, all others must bring data”

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

This is a quote that is largely attributed to Peter Drucker, but apparently it was William Thompson (also known as Lord Kelvin), famous for devising the absolute temperature scale, formulating the second law of thermodynamics and installing telegraph cables under the Atlantic, who originally made this statement.

It is no surprise that Drucker and other eminent business gurus have adopted this quote. The logic is undeniable. If you really want to know what needs to be improved, you need to measure it.

This is even more relevant in a context where global competition, indefatigable change, regulatory pressures and increased customer expectations demand agile problem solving and decision making.

To succeed leaders need to transform businesses by enhancing productivity and unlocking innovation to drive corporate performance.

But, no matter how much business leaders might embrace this concept, there are so many things that can be measured, where do you start and what is most important?

The answer to these questions depend largely on who you ask.

Rather than giving you a long list of possible measures, my recommendation is to focus your limited resources on customer measures in four specific areas:

  1. Product or Service – are your customers raving fans or merely satisfied?
  2. Systems – do you have the right processes, systems and procedures in place for efficiently and effectively meeting your customer needs?
  3. Innovation – are you continuously improving your product or service to meet the changing needs of your customers?
  4. People – are your teams delivering world-class customer service to delight and exceed the expectations of your customers?

Ultimately, as a leader, you will have to apply some wisdom, logic and discernment to selecting the measurements that are most relevant for your company.

The fact is that without clearly established metrics for success, you cannot identify or quantify the right action to take to produce the desired results.  Without clear measures, you’re stuck in a constant state of trusting to luck, gut feeling and guessing.

Maybe luck, guessing or your gut have worked for you up until now, but American Statistician W. Edwards Deming knew what he was talking about when he said: “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

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