I am not sure how we got this way. I think it’s from two generations of leaders taking too-much-to-heart the old adage: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I think we have lost sight of what the “it” in that sentence is supposed to refer to. As your high school English teacher used to say, the pronoun “it” in this case has a vague antecedent. Continue reading
Greg is a self-styled call center humorist. He’s also an astute critic of management practices gone bad. His latest contribution to the practice of management takes the form of a limerick. He’s entitled it prosaically “Call Center Limerick #1.” I guess that means we ought to brace ourselves for more.
With Greg’s permission, I offer you his ditty:
There once was a manager who
micromanaged all reps on his crew
For the reps it was hectic
Each breath was a metric
If you died, well, he measured that too
It does seem that managers sometimes get so busy measuring that they fail to manage. Whoever first coined that old saw, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” ought to offer a retraction. This saying has done more harm than good to management practices. It puts the cart before the horse.
Measurements—especially measures of financial performance—are lagging indicators. They measure the effectiveness of what has been done. They are descriptive; not prescriptive.
A further trouble here is that we tend to measure those things that are easiest to measure. So, managers gravitate towards measures such as employee productivity and efficiency. Once you measure them, you report them, and what gets reported becomes seen as important. If you are not careful, this creates a vicious circle of micro management. Is it any wonder that call centers have low employee morale and employee engagement problems?
Focus instead on what is important rather than on what is easy to measure. Focus on what matters, like employee engagement. Though traditionally, this has been harder to measure, the Satisfaction@Work Index® has made it possible for the last 10 years. Even this tool, though, can be abused if you put it first, not second, where it belongs. Don’t set your course by it; set your course by articulating your mission, vision and values, then assess your progress along the journey by using the Index.
As a way of saying “thanks” to Greg for getting me started on this topic, let me propose my own tribute to the call center humorist:
There once was a writer named Greg
who wrote what popped into his head
When readers genuflected
the wisdom reflected
They learned from the things that he said
Watch out: this limerick-ing can become addictive. What management wisdom can you offer by way of a limerick?