Measuring is a waste of time. Or not?


We glibly believe we can measure everything. We can give everything a number and then it is a fact. Indisputable.

In Check-In Journal, we quote the over-quoted, “What gets measured gets done”. Do we really mean it? Well, yes and no.

Certainly, the process of measuring puts a focus on something. But having the number doesn’t make anything right. After all, using a more accurate set of scales doesn’t make the pig any fatter!

Numbers give an illusion of certainty. They give the illusion of greater truth and precision than they are capable of providing. A false illusion. For instance, humans’ genetic code is 98% identical to that of chimpanzees. So what? That 2% is still a vast gap. Or would you have your daughter marry a chimp?

Yes, some things cannot be measured. Not in the real sense of an accurate measurement. How much does he love you? How happy are you?

However, I still argue that measuring or putting a number against something is of value.

For instance, “How good is your health on a scale of 1 to 10?”. The process of estimating, helps you to evaluate and see what can be improved. It is the process, the discussion, which is of interest. What would an 8 look like? Are we nearer an 8 or a 7? Is it 7 and getting better? How do you know? Where’s the evidence?

Don’t get me wrong. The numbers are only an approximation but the process of trying to “put a number to” something can create fascinating, insightful, and challenging debate.

In the Check-in journal, we ask you to put a number against your performance in business and your performance in your personal life. As a result, you are able to decide what needs to be done (or not done) to improve your lot. This is an incredibly powerful exercise.

I would like to refer to the economist Milton Friedman. In classes he would ask:

–         How do you know?

–         And, so what?

Our process is simply to get people to try and calibrate where they are. Roughly. Not precisely. And use that process/discussion/debate to help them understand what they might be able to do even better.

And don’t start me on “What do you mean by better?”.

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