How to Select Effective Measures

agile leadership continuous improvement decision-making
Team at table reviewing data

By Julie Springer

September 27, 2022

Leaders need good information to make decisions, but it can be hard to know what to measure. If you are not clear and thoughtful about the data you gather, you will end up wasting time and resources… or worse yet, making poor decisions. It’s important to know what you are asking for and how to determine whether a measure is effective.

Keep in mind that it takes time and effort to gather and analyze data. Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean you should. The value of the measure should outweigh the effort.

Be intentional about who will use the information and what they will use it for. Think of data like a product, by defining the user and their needs. Validate that the measure is a good match for what is needed and identify ways that the information should not be used, to avoid unintended consequences.

Ask the Right Questions

To get better measures, ask better questions.

  1. Know what you are asking for:
    • What question are we trying to answer?
    • What do we want to know?
    • Why do we need to know this?
  2. Evaluate the proposed measure:
    • Is it valid? (it measures what we think it does)
    • Is it reliable? (consistent)
    • Is it useful? (it helps us to make decisions or make improvements)
  3. Determine whether it is worth measuring:
    • How will we gather this data?
    • How much effort will it take?
    • Does the usefulness/value justify the investment?
  4. Determine how you will use it:
    • Who needs this data?
    • What decisions will it inform?
    • How should this data not be used?

Following this framework when deciding what to measure will increase the value that you get out of your measures, while decreasing the cost. Aim to have a few good measures in place that drive your most important decisions, and drop the rest.

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