Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of Measurements ... Again

A lot of people have written a lot about the value of measurements. Most of us know the dictum that whatever cant be measured cant be managed. And this interesting post by Moria Levy about Measurement also starts with this dictum. But thats where she moves away from what a lot of folks are saying.

A lot has been written about the utility, or futility of measurements especially when it comes to intangibles. This is because of the basic definition of something intangible, which is defined by the dictionary as ...

existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

Now, if something exists only in connection with something else, how do we measure it? And, is it really important to measure it? Maybe it isnt.

The the example of knowledge ... Moria has forcefully described how and why measurement may not be the best thing to have happened to humanity since ... (fill in with whatever you like!). Apart from the usual issue that most measurements we do today are about where we have been, rather than where we are headed, an important thing to point is that in most scenarios, its not possible to identify cause and effect relationships between things. Its easy if we can keep all other variables constant, but thats easier said than done. As i have written before, KM is possibly one of the initiatives being run in the organization, and as such, its really difficult to identify cause and effect relationships which can define what led to which operational improvement. Like the swimmer's dilemma i have written about earlier (although in the context of training, but its equally applicable here).

Another aspect to this definition is that if intangibles exist only in connection with something else, the only way to measure these is by measuring those something elses, which is why, i have been talking about the whole idea of proxy measures, which means that we cannot, and maybe should not, have a universal definition for measurement of KM, but rather, derive these definitions based on the context in which they are applicable.

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