Business managers focus on things they can measure. Income, expenses, worker productivity and process variation consume peoples attention. Everyone seems to be consumed with numbers. Many people fail to consider some of the most important issues that truly drive a business besides the numbers.
Now “numbers” are attracting attention to social media. Subsequently everyone wants BIG numbers. Followers, tweets, retweets, blog post, rankings, Google juice, traffic, ROI and the obsession for numbers continues. While numbers are important they do not always reveal the true value being created or destroyed by actions. Over the last four years most all of the major industries have seen their numbers go down. Did the numbers lead them to change their thinking? No, it only caused an add or subtract mentality to make the numbers to the bottom line work.
W. Edwards Deming used to say “The most important things in business are those things you can’t measure, you can see but such things can make or break your business.” When asked “What are such things which you cannot measure? His response was “How do you measure the value of relationships, conversations and the intangible benefit such things produce? It is the intangible things that create success but management wants to focus on results at the cost of the intangible things. Doing so destroys relationships, manipulates conversations and encourages the production of false results because that is what management wants, results even when they are meaningless“
What we learn from conversations, relationships and the intangible value we all gain from being connected with people is the perplexing paradox that many business leaders simply don’t get. The related activities of a networked world are driven by communications and influenced by information. The “result” is what we the people do with the information to benefit each other and the network of relations.
Numbers do matter but what causes an organization to produce the right results matters most. In the networked economy it is cause that has more meaning than effect. It is the intangible things that creates meaning but management wants to focus on results at the cost of the intangible things and thus destroying the things that matter most.