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The Curse of Metrics Measurement

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We measure our success by numbers : What the turnover of the business is, how fast the growth rate is, how low our costs are.

We measure employee engagement by numbers : How high is our staff turnover rate? What is the percentage of staff that are highly engaged in work?

We even measure happiness by numbers and rank cities with the highest level of happiness.

We are number driven and our achievements are determined by what the numbers say. We are all looking at Big Data analytics as the next killer app that all businesses must have. When the world is so connected and data is generated not only by human interactions but also by the Internet of Things, we know that we are in for a world of Big Data. When companies invest into Big Data analytics and we have more and more insights provided by information and intelligence, we should be able to increase our ability to manage our business better, right?

Well, it is a two-edged sword. This is what I called the "course of metric measurement". When leaders focus solely on numbers, we have a problem. Numbers are tools that we can use to help us frame our growth and indicators to show if we are on the right path. However, to take us to the destination that we desire, we need to go beyond numbers. We have to go back to the fundamentals of business. Businesses exist to create values ​​for the human community. Simon Sinek cave a comprehensive view of what drives human beings in his book: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together And Others Do not . The key driving force behind a successful organization is to create an environment where the circle of safety is large and where people can connect to each other with trust, driving the right decision making in the interest of the organization and serving their purpose through meaningful work.

1. Circle of Safety

When we do not feel safe from each other in the work environment, our instincts drive us to protect ourselves. This is the driving force behind office politics. People start to hide information, create silos and play brake games. No one wants to be accountable for the outcome of their work and we have a toxic environment where infection is common and unhealthy tension developments. With the employees focusing their energy on self-protection within the organization, how can we expect them to spend enough time focusing on the competition outside the company? So, how can leaders create a safe environment where staff can trust their co-workers and focus their energy in working towards delivering the best for the company? Many talk about core values ​​and company culture. Few truly believe that getting that fundamentals right will move the business in the right direction. We often find leaders spending huge amount of time tracking numbers, but you rarely find one who spends an equal amount of time creating the right environment for the business to flourish through an engaged work.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. This is critical in forging trust as well as to have the right understanding of your customers' needs. When our relationships with customers or employees become abstract concepts, we naturally pursue the most tangible thing we can see -the metrics. When times are bad, we see corporates slashing jobs. These are just numbers to the strategic planning team. The discussion is around how many jobs to cut in order to meet the numbers. At the corporate headquarters, they can not see the people whose jobs are on the line. There is no empathy, just number crunching. When the workers are mere a statistic to manage, how do we expect them to be engaged and be inspired to contribute their best to the company?

Some companies implement schemes where key leaders have to work at the front lines serving customers directly at least once every year. That is a good way to ensure that customers come alive in our creation of products and services and not just merely figures and charts that we analyze. We know who we serve and why we serve them. We need the connection as human beings and not as a faceless organization governed by mere metrics.

There is a limit to how many people you can put in an organization before the connection is lost due to distance. According to Robin Dunbar, British anthropologist and a professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, it is 150. People simply can not maintain more than 150 close relationships. As the organization grows, we can look at the different way of managing the organization to maintain the relationship among the people. One possible organizational system would be Halocracy.

3. Purposeful Work

Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup's new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace . I do not think anyone will be surprised by this low number. We hear many lamenting about their work. It has become just a means to pay for our bills. Surely, this has got to change?

Dr. Kazuo Inamori has made his mission to have "happy employees". That is the primary role of the leader. To ensure that the workplace is one where employees find purpose and fulfillment through work. A place where they deliver value and through hard work, achieve a sense of fulfillment. Work should be purposeful and an organization should be a soul place where people feel a sense of belonging.

As we manage a business through measuring metrics as our sign post, we must always return to our purpose, the destination that we are driving towards. As Simon Sinek said, an organization is called a company as it is, in fact, a group of people working in the company of each other. Focus on the people and the business will be automatically taken care of. So, beware of the curse of metric measurement.

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