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Measure mania is a disease of performance management.  it is easily caught and spread.  It is a compulsive behaviour to measure absolutely everything.

How do we recognise measure mania?

Measure mania is easily recognised in organisations. The organisation will be obsessed with collecting information, not matter what the cost.  Everything needs to be measured and reported.  Even those things that are not easily measured.

Data disappearing down a black hole

Data disappears in black hole

An easy way to spot measure mania is the size of performance reports.  They are not merely 10s or even hundreds of items of data.  they can contain thousands of items.  So much that it is extremely difficult to see work out what is important and what is not.  You can’t see the wood for the trees.

The other way to spot measure mania is the experience of people on the ground.  When they are asked to create data and report measures on absolutely everything they do.  Even to the detriment of doing the job properly (paper filling and box ticking).

‘Measure what you want to manage’, is quite different from ‘manage what you can measure’.

Big data and measure mania

Big data and measure mania are different.  Big data collects lots of data for analysis, trends and searching for insights.  In contrast, measure mania insists that people provide and report measurements of everything.  One is process intensive, but integrates into people’s day to day working lives or activities.  The other intrudes and takes up their time.

What are the consequences of measure mania?

There are usually two consequences to measure mania:

  1. Management cannot actually see what is going on.  Or they end up managing only parts of the data they see because that is all they can manage to process.  Trying to wade through the mire of information further disconnects them from what is really happening on the ground.
  2. The people on the front line become resentful of the amount of time and effort required to complete the data.  What happens next? They realise the data is not actually looked at so they either complete the forms with false data, omit to complete the forms, or simply lie.  Resentment has built up.

How to inoculate against measure mania

  • Involve people in measurement.  Ask people what they perceive as useful to measure, for them.  Involve people in the decision making.  What is useful for them to make decisions (rather that management to monitor and control their activities)
  • Integrate measurement (data collection) into the process rather than it being an add on activity.
  • Focus on objectives before measures, or what will inform a decision.