Measurement vs. Listening

I hear this a lot. Management asks staff in an organization to measure something that those who are being measured know is not going to provide valuable insight.

But yet, to placate the managers, they measure. These measurements then make themselves into presentations that are then used to drive management decisions.

Decisions that, to those in the organization, the source of the data, don't feel right. And heads shake. Trust is diminished. And the spirit of work is deflated.

looking backward

There was Frederick Taylor and the Gilbreths, Frank and Lillian. A conflict about the nature of measurement that tore apart the early proponents of scientific management.

Taylor looked at laborers with a stopwatch in his hand, measuring the time of each movement, trying to find the best way to squeeze productivity out of each second of a factory worker's day.

And then there were the Gilbreths, who were focused on understanding of the movement of workers, so to better improve not only efficiencies, but also the wellbeing of workers. At one time, they were allied in their efforts, but then they became ardent adversaries.

Measure what matters.

Taylor was measuring what mattered, but he was doing it with an intention that continued to drive a wedge between management and workers. For, at its core, its sole focus was on increasing the extraction of value from its workforce.

The Gilbreths, on the other hand, had a different intention. They focused on the wellbeing of workers, believing that by improving the elegance of their movements, efficiency of production would be realized. In a sense, they were practicing the Concept of Obliquity.

looking forward

I am pondering the nature of measurement as we explore this transition of organizations from allopoietic systems to Autopoietic Systems.

Key to these new complex systems is their adaptive nature. A nature that requires a persistent state of systemic listening in order to create what we are calling an Autonoetic Consciousness. A listening that is beyond measurement.

The natures of measurement and listening are quite different. Indeed they are complimentary.

In listening, we are in a place of open discovery. We have not predefined what excellence looks like. We are simply seeking to understand underlying dynamics, the patterns of relationship in order to ask those questions that might drive improvement. This approach assumes that we are not the master engineer, but an egoless co-creator in a process that is wonderfully unfolding.

I look forward to see where Ward's exploration of listening, hinted at in Recreational Measurement, is going to take us.

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