What Happens if We Don’t Measure Performance?

July 9, 2019 by Stacey Barr

There is a lot of focus on why we should measure performance. But are the consequences of having no KPIs, metrics or measures really all that bad?

Spilt milk. Credit: marykan

We know there are some pretty awful consequences when we measure performance poorly, or for the wrong reasons. But what about the consequences of not measuring performance at all?

Surely there was a time when humans engaged in business, but didn’t measure anything other than the flow of money. Is business today any better off for measuring more?

It’s easy to put forward reasons to measure performance, and I’ve certainly been one of the many who have done that. But part of deciding whether performance measurement is worth the effort, is to contrast it with not measuring at all.

The purpose of this post is not to answer the question. Rather, the purpose is to invite conversation about what happens when businesses and organisations don’t measure performance.

Will you share your thoughts, either in by commenting on this post, or emailing me?

I’ll update this post with everyone’s contributions, and we’ll see what if it changes the value we give to measurement.

What happens when we don’t measure performance at all? What are the consequences of having no KPIs, metrics or measures, and are they all that bad?
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DISCUSSION:

Share your thoughts about the consequences of not measuring performance with me, either by commenting on the blog, or emailing me at info@staceybarr.com.

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  1. Failing to measure is as flawed as failing to plan and can lead to the proverbial ‘failure’.
    The plan must include measurement, and also be mindful of what is worth measuring and what is not worth measuring.
    I have seen too many clients waste resources and measure things that don’t yield any value.
    I have seen too many client fail to measure what really matters, fooling themselves into thinking all is well.
    Apart from people skills I see measurement skills as a core competency every business must have.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      I like the comparison you draw between failing to measure and failing to plan, David. And you give examples of wasting resources when measuring the wrong things. Have you seen the consequences of not measuring at all?

  2. There would be no consequences if we do not have anything to do as individuals or organisations. Unfortunately, we all have something to do. Therefore, one of the consequences is waste of time, effort and money if we do not properly plan and measure our performance.

    We can only plan properly if we correctly measure our performance. Without performance measurement, we cannot know objectively what to change for better results. As a result, our plans will be driven by wishes and whims, and progress, if any, will be by chance whereby failure will be more likely in anything we do!

  3. Peter R says:

    Fair question. Sometimes not measuring is fine… as long as things are going well! That’s being lucky, and either naïve or unconcerned about changing winds. Isn’t non-measurement historically pervasive, and still common in small businesses and non-profits? Surely consequences abound, from minor to dire. For instance:
    – A small retail outlet unexpectedly running out of an item and giving up on a little bit of revenue.
    – A contractor in high demand doing some innovative work will be nicely profitable being swept along in unmeasured mediocrity, until competition catches up.
    – In my own field I work with engineers in government agencies, and we have a remark from one claiming they are all professionals who show up to work and know what to do. Which may be fine until a politically driven budget change, and without being able to point to their results, that business unit was the first to go.
    – Last week I listened to a podcast about how well (or badly) sheriff’s departments solve major crimes. A sheriff who was not aware of their performance stated, “just good old-fashioned police work and a little bit of luck go a long way” – and their jurisdiction is also among the best places to get away with murder.
    – The end of HBO’s series on Chernobyl revealed nuclear plant risks arising from non-measurement that were only revealed because of the disaster.

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