Monday Musings 260 – Measurability is over hyped
‘’ The objective was synonymous with the measurable....the limiting of the knowable to the quantifiable ....Moreover the exclusion of the non measurable from what counted as knowledge left some of us our most important questions unanswered but unanswerable.... (This is from a book on Existentialism, a strand of philosophy)
I read this and immediately my thoughts went to someone’s email signature which screamed ‘’What cannot be measured cannot be improved’’. I have heard things to that effect multiple times at my workplace and frankly I have recycled some variation of that myself. There was a hollow ring to it every time I proclaimed it as certitude; the finality of the statement was intuitively doubtful. However I could not find words to explain. As I read the above, my tentativeness on the subject has finally found words.
I inhabit the world of plumbing and not that of philosophy although given half a chance I would like to change places. (Purely on grounds of ability I will postpone that to the next life as of now). Corporations put a premium to the measurable and that emphasis is promoted as a virtue. The origin of that thinking is not difficult to trace-as the market place understands and hence rewards only the measurable and the measured. However what goes into making things happen on a daily basis often may not be quantifiable and hence not amenable to measurement. The lack of quantifiability and hence measurability does not in any way reduce its criticality as if most often indicated. We will do well for our well being to remember that. The custodians of workplace will do well to remember that.
There has been progress in a way to bring the focus to the softer aspects of being an employee, managing teams and running an organisation from the heydays of the machine worldview – where everything was a part of a moving machine and hence treated as a controllable part. No wonder that issues like engagement, loyalty, culture, leadership and other cousins of the same ilk have entered daily conversation. However the way they are treated betrays the same worldview of objectivity that in the first place had proved insufficient. The worldview is still of scores – essentially machinist – as a be all and end all – and not on the ‘softness or spirit’ of it – and that makes the whole exercise like playing golf with a cricket bat.
Measurability cannot be the only paradigm of criticality. Just because something is not quantifiable and hence measurable should not mean it should be discarded. Most things that human being appreciated, desire, value and respond to cannot be bound by the terrorism of Likert scale (Peace be upon him!). Imagine saying to your loved one that they mean 26.732 Kg to you (assuming attachment can be measured in kilograms) or to the employee that you feel 94.65 greater concern for him/her which is 35.87 % higher than last year! Utter gobbledygook!!! I am sure you get the drift of the nonsense.
This does not mean that the pursuit of quantifiability and measurability is essentially wrong or undesirable – it’s the mindlessness of it and the paradigm that it is the only touchstone of organisational effectiveness that is under scrutiny. That, however requires some reading of existentialism, a subject which generally speaking the cubiclewallah looks down upon. If only he knew!!