CIO Development

Article Do you measure up?

A few years ago I was flown out to the USA for a beauty parade on benchmarking leadership to the gathered IT elite of a global pharmaceuticals company. It was a breakthrough opportunity for my company at the time, so there was a lot at stake. Their Chief Executive, a world-class sportsman in his youth, was very keen on measurement and had issued the edict: “if you aren’t keeping the score, you are only practicing.” I rather liked the spirit of the slogan, but I was able to offer them a counter-quote from Einstein: “not everything that counts can be easily counted.”

Einstein isn’t belittling the importance of measurement; he is urging us to be robust and careful in how we approach it. The whole point of benchmarking is to model excellence. It is the most complete response to the question: “how are the people who are able to do this better than we do, able to do it?” This is a powerful question to ask about anything you do, either as a team or as an individual. Good diagnostics and benchmarking require you to explore models of excellence. They generalise over ranges of businesses and people. They enable business and individuals to know when fundamental change is necessary and offer you guidance on how you can go about it.

Benchmarking leadership capability is an important check in a continual learning process. The best organisations measure and compare performance regularly and they go on measuring and comparing while ever their model has validity. This assumes that you accept that you can learn from others and that best practice is transferable. If you and your executive don’t believe this you are doomed to mediocrity, or worse. Effective performance measurement cannot be superficial. It takes place at a deep structural level. It is a tool for learning how to change. It has to be systematic and you have to know with precision and clarity what is it you are trying to model. You must know how to model the excellence of others.

Let’s get back to Einstein, the second part of the quote runs: “not everything that can be counted, counts” and he could have been thinking about the good old IT function benchmarking and service level models when he said this. What does it matter how many lines of code your programmers can cut? It is much more valuable to know whether your functional contribution is up to scratch, or whether your executive team is as effective as it needs to be, or whether you are as good a leader as you can be. All these are measurable with effective modelling and good diagnostics. Doing it will teach you not just what needs to be improved, often radically improved, but also how you should go about it.

Contact Brinley Platts on 07973 745 640 at CIODEVELOPMENT.COM to find out how you can engage your colleagues and team on the issues raised by this article.

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