Measurement Inertia

We measure in order to improve upon ~ to identify beneficial actions for a business to take. This excitement to improve can result in overzealousness where too much is measured. Plague by excess, what frequently happens is little-to-no next-step decisions get undertaken despite the wealth of data, analysis and discussions.

Do you remember when you had a great many options to choose from, then struggled to narrow these down to just a few? How easy was getting to this shortlist and how difficult + time-consuming was making your final choice?

Studies have repeatedly found that too much choice can be demotivating and even crippling. Findings from experiments around choice (including the popularly quoted jam experiment) that re-enforce this:

These experiments, which were conducted in both field and laboratory settings, show that people are more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates or to undertake optional class essay assignments when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than a more extensive array of 24 or 30 choices.

Iyengar & Lepper 2000 (Columbia University & Stanford University)

Click here to read a PDF of this study.

Similarly, too much data can incapacitate.

Having gone around in several reportinganalysis circles has helped me develop these simple methods to head off measurement inertia. Here are three things to help steer clear of this ‘wheel spin’:

Detail time, people and budget available

These are always limited and resource commitments are usually planned in advance. Thus it would pre-determined how much realistically can be allocated to act on measurement findings. Without definite resources or budgets, little change is possible and measurement can quickly turn into a white elephant.

Clarity about people, skill-sets, budgets and time available for acting on measurement findings will help steer analysis and recommendations towards viable & successful outcomes.

Be narrowly focused

It is unusual to successfully complete more than one change/improvement project a quarter for a business at normal capacity. Five or six completed projects would be quite the achievement.

Given this, broad + comprehensive measurement implementations often end up under-utilised and achieve few notable outcomes. Deciding on four primary and two secondary areas of focus is more realistic and better sets these projects up for success.

Keeping a narrow focus, remedying one thing at a time before moving on to another leads to better completed outcomes. With experience, change projects become faster + more efficient and upwards of six successful projects become possible.

Set indicators of success/failure

Measurement planning tends to happen late in project roll-out and this can result in reporting that is disconnect with what teams are looking for analytics to help with.

This disconnect can be avoided by engaging measurement teams earlier in experience planning. Working with them to set benchmarks of success or failure for key measurement areas ensures that reports will not only be insightful but can be acted upon.

See the following example which has some precise indicators set. This leaves little room for ambiguity and clearly points to changes needed.

If you would like to read more about this, follow this link to Step 3 – Measurement Indicators from a guide I wrote about developing a simple measurement plan.

Closing Thoughts

The above does not intend to replace the standard measurement methods that should be put in place. These standard measures are needed to benchmark against norms and to answer basic performance questions. The above recommendations look beyond and aims to better answer the frequent question of “Now what?”, posed to analysts after reporting is completed.

Acknowledgement: Icon in image made by Freepik from