The Limits of Measurement

Photo by Marta Longas on

We pay attention to what we measure. Over the last few decades, it’s become an obsession. The saying goes if we can’t measure it, we can’t control it. We’ve at a stage where if we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Measurement is a hard, statistical, intellectual exercise. Reducing things to numbers. Our obsession with measuring is such that when we find something that won’t measure easily, we use a proxy.

Proxy: a figure that can be used to represent the value of something in a calculation.

Oxford Dictionary

Over time, we no longer the proxy. We think wealth is measured in money, or importance in terms of celebrity, or our potential in terms of exam results.

We exclude the vast majority of what’s important, but difficult to measure. We subordinate our senses to a measuring tape, and our ambition to a random judgement on our abilities to repeat things in exames we’ll probably never use again.

And we do it willingly.

That might have some use when our situation is relatively stable, and the proxies have some relevance. In times of uncertainty however, they fail miserably. We look to politicians with no background or evidence of capability in leadership to lead us, and managers used to the security of process and protocol to make decisions when those tools no longer apply.

It’s beginning to show. People at the centre, whether it’s London or HQ are affronted when they issue edicts to people in places or environments they do not understand, and find them questioned. A friend this mornong described it to me as though the sheep have suddenly decided to ignore the sheepdog, and the poor old sheepdog is thoroughly confused.

Governance works when the majority of people accept that, for the most part, it works for them. When that ceases to be the case, we have a problem beginning to form.

Leadership was never ever conferred by a title. It was earned by example and an ability to instil confidence based on trust, and trust is earned through consistency and competence.

This is going to be a long winter for leaders in all domains.

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