There are many things in life we measure. We measure our bank accounts, our weight, our age. In business, we have key metrics such as sales figures, production rates, and revenue. But what about the things we cannot measure?
We know we need to have a creative, productive, and collaborative culture. We spend a lot of time measuring what we can, at the expense of ignoring the immeasurable.
Let me start with a story I recently heard (I do not know who created it).
A father gave his daughter an old car, told her to sell it, and she could keep the money. She took the car to a dealership and was told the car is only worth $1,000. When she told her father, he told her to take it to a salvage yard. The salvage yard told her it is worth $1,150. When she told her father, he told her to take it to a car club. They offered her $100,000. This is because, although old, it was an exceedingly rare car. When she told her father, he said to her, “Never let anybody tell you your worth.”
How Do You Measure the Intangibles?
This creates the question of, how do you measure the worth of your people? How valuable are your team members? Are they valued by their salary? Or are they valued by their title? There is no way to measure the “worth” of someone on a team. However, people who are unproductive or uncooperative are shown their worth by being removed from the team. Letting every team member know they are valued helps build a positive culture, but it cannot be measured.
When leaders are asked the most critical areas to consider to have a sustainable culture, the conversation moves rather quickly from easily measurable numbers to areas that do not have metrics. You will hear things such as, “People taking personal accountability for improvement,” “collaboration across boundaries,” and “holding each other accountable.” These abstract concepts are critical to organizational success, yet there is no way to put a number on them. Many intangibles are necessary, but how do you measure them?
It Takes Time
Taylorism, a management theory, also known as scientific management, works okay in the world of manufacturing. Everything the company cares about is measured. However, this does not typically include people, as many of these companies generally do not trust the people working for them.Agile organizations, on the other hand, develop trust amongst and between the team members and the team leaders. But what metric do you use to measure trust? When do you begin to trust the people on your team? Is it when you first meet them? While they are in training? No–you earn the trust of each other over time, and you most likely will not be able to place the date that the trust started. Unfortunately, it is extremely easy to know, measure, and likely place the date of when someone lost your trust.
Culture Affects Performance
While it is true that culture impacts performance, culture also affects performance. Consider your core values. Are the words to inspire on the wall, or does every person in your business, particularly the leadership team, demonstrate them every day? Leaders who exhibit the core values in everything they do earn dedication from their people. But how do you measure dedication? Is it longevity? If so, a new hire is less dedicated than someone who has been there for ten years? And there is no way to measure this? Recognizing dedication helps build a great culture, and it can be seen by initiative and effort. These cannot be calculated.
As people join new teams, are they confident in the new role and tasks, or do they need training? While they are learning, they can clearly demonstrate competence, but what about confidence? Just like trust, confidence takes time to build. So how do you place a metric on confidence? When leaders show confidence, this helps build confidence in their people, thus creating a great culture.
Traits of a Positive Culture
It is vital that people who report to you feel cared for in all aspects of their lives. This is often easier for leaders than team members. Team members will generally care for and spend time outside of work together, but what about people on other teams? There is no hard metric to measure care, although questions may show up on employee satisfaction surveys. These results are often not an accurate indicator. Regardless, care undoubtedly builds a positive culture.
Teamwork and collaboration play important roles in most organizational cultures. The reality is that the work is rarely equally shared, but rather dependent on the specific skill sets of every individual on the team. It is also generally true that the workload shifts as the project progresses. It is easy to tell which teams work well together and which ones do not. How can one measure the teamwork and collaboration, knowing that what is being observed most likely is not the case? A place of teamwork and collaboration is a business building a great culture.
And we cannot forget about integrity. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines integrity as a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” We expect this of everyone we work with. We know when we see it, and we know when we do not. But what is the measurement for integrity?
Frederick Taylor said, “In our scheme, we do not want initiative of our men. We do not want any initiative. All we want them to do is obey the orders we give them, do what we say, and do it quick.” While initiative is something else, we know when we see it, and is not measurable, the modern business must move away from this model. This creates a workplace with a terrible culture, low morale, and people only showing up for a paycheck. Today, we desire the people we work with to be engaged and involved.
It is true that we need to measure many metrics to ensure the health of our companies. Still, there are many other traits that we must pay attention to achieve and maintain a positive culture. It is in these immeasurable details that keep us innovative, healthy, and strong. Keep this in mind–and thrive.
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