An old business adage goes that we manage what we measure. This is as true today as the day it was said as simply identifying positive or negative trends forces us to evaluate how our actions affect the results we get. But measuring results in business can often be a much harder task than it would appear. In this article we discuss the differences in measuring success in business and sport and how they affect what we do to drive performance.
Business is all about competition and essentially competitive advantage yet there is no league table for us to declare winners and losers. There is no such thing as games for us to decide neither mini encounters nor cup competitions to inspire us to glory. The measurements of success are often nothing more than the balance sheet and did we beat last year?
In sport it is now possible to measure all aspects of play from the counters that let us know the yardage covered by each footballer to the slow motion replay that allows us to analyse every single tackle and comb over the minutiae of incidents with a microscope. This environment must sometimes feel like living in a pressure cooker for those involved but the results are evident for all to see. Sport continues to break new ground as well as records and the measurements are exact. Golfers are hitting the ball tens of yards further than 40 years ago; sprinters are running faster than ever; teams are fitter, better prepared with greater understanding of the strategies necessary to win games.
This is measuring taken to its extreme and with the money involved who can blame them. But what if the same tools were available for business? Information Systems in business are generally lacking behind in ways that can literally be frightening. And when not falling behind the tools that exist in a lot of Management Information Systems are not used to their full extent, if at all. Not being able to measure how well an individual works will result in sloppy performance and a demotivated employee.
Imagine if we had the time and resources to replay vital customer transactions, going over what was said, what selling techniques were used, what body language was on show? Imagine if we could count every step our employees take or discuss on every decision made in detail?
The truth is we are a long way from implementing such systems. Anytime a company chooses to do something similar (putting a tracker on a work vehicle for example) it may face action from employees regarding rights to privacy and harassment. At the very least the employees may get demotivated due to an obvious lack of trust from senior management thus doing more harm than good.
But as managers we can at least dream.
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