January 11, 2012
Intangibles are hard to measure. Period.
As a business owner, it is an ongoing challenge to measure subjective components such as customer service or a positive work ethic. Things like sales are easy - they go up and they come down. Black and white. Duties like cleaning, answering phones, responding to emails, showing up on time, obeying dress code policies, following step by step directions… all easy. Either you did it or you did not do it. Black and white.
Intangible, subjective components of any business are difficult to measure. And if you are anything like me, when you can’t measure something and get a clear cut result, you just don’t want to deal with it at all. Author Douglas Hubbard gives a great example in his book about government agencies that often completely overlook areas of their operations because they have no measuring tool. As a result, aspects of their operation greatly suffer. [“How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business” Awesome book!]
I’m not here to tell you that there is a magic way of putting a quantifiable value on something like customer service. There isn’t. But just because you don’t have the right measuring stick, does not mean you should simply ignore or overlook an area of your business until you find a magic measuring stick. Good practice would be to engage in small and simple acts of observing, monitoring and/or questioning. This will, more often than not, lead to incremental improvements in any unquantifiable business aspect. There is just no simple way to score something with so many different variables. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Similarly, I find that people tend to often times ignore or put off aspects of themselves or their personal lives that they can’t really organize in a tangible manner. For example, there is no way of putting a time, value, or number on things like grieving a loss, analyzing your feelings in a relationship, caring for yourself, forgiveness, compassion…. I can go on and on. Just because you don’t have a measuring stick for yourself and your emotional health and well being, doesn’t mean it should get overlooked. Give yourself simple and small doses of attention and see what kind of shifts you can create for yourself in your personal life.
If you have small and simple ways to measure the intangibles in your business or personal life, share them with me! I would love to learn.