Measures Versus Values: A Disconnect

Every organization has to worry about the bottom line, regardless of their mission. After all, rent and salaries need to be paid. The lights have to come on every day no matter how many lives are saved or turned around. And fortunately, money is (fairly) easy to track and measure, if you have a good accountant.

We can also measure units of productivity: units sold, graduated, admitted, healed, dispensed, manufactured, resolved, fixed, passed and so forth, depending on your trade. Hopefully also pretty straight-forward and useful to measure. After all, if questions, laws, widgets or whatever are the unit of our trade, it makes sense to focus on them when evaluating whether we are meeting our goals and benchmarks.

However, I can’t help but notice that organizational values are not generally measurable as widgets, laws or questions. Rather, they pertain to innovation, respect, reliability, trust, communication, teamwork, responsibility, people, continuous improvement, integrity and so forth. I don’t see where items sold and dollars generated translate into an organization’s core values.

It’s not just organizations that may feel a sense of disconnect between measures and values. Our families may also focus on money, but also grades, income, expenses, vacation days, chores, items purchased, items lost, assignments forgotten, etc.

I can certainly understand the tendency to just measure things that are easily measurable. Those core values are notoriously hard to assess. The problem is, that if we don’t try to measure our progress towards living our values, then our values become a lost commodity that becomes our theory, not our reality. When we fail to live our values, then our lives just become a means to a financial (or other) end rather than the mechanism for finding meaning and purpose in our lives.

We may not all be setting the benchmarks in our jobs or organizations, but I’ll bet every one of us has a say as to what we measure in our personal lives. What are you measuring? Does that measurement portfolio align with your mission and core values, or is it on balance making you overly-focused on the wrong thing? Get your personal or organizational board of trustees together to re-evaluate. You may find that you’re missing some pretty amazing data!

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