I recently heard a presentation that mentioned the truism ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it’. It reminded me of how uncomfortable I have always been with this statement and the way it gets touted like a mantra in some organisations. If we view the functions of management as ‘plan, organise, lead, control, direct’, then both ‘measuring and managing’ appear to be more appropriate in an ordered world where cause and effect are knowable. For complex situations, where cause and effect cannot be predicted with acccuracy, the concepts of measure and manage aren’t sufficient to be successful. Measure and manage also don’t make any allowance for emergence and tend to overlook any unintended consequences. Fortunately I think many more people recite this truism than really believe it.
I prefer to view the function of management as ‘creating the conditions that enable people to be successful’. I also much prefer the concept expressed by Albert Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.