Kudos to Jim Estill. His blog “ceo blog – time leadership” was just named among the top 10 leadership Jim Estill Cover Page from his blogblogs by HR World. Coincidentally, one of his posts, What Gets Measured Gets Done, was also named among the top 5 blog posts of the week by Wally Block.  Jim is right, of course, what gets measured gets done. And he provides the nifty example in his dedication to his fitness routine (which is impressive in itself). But he doesn’t go far enough.

A good lesson comes from Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow and general surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. In his book titled simply BETTER, Gawande tells the story of the most innocent of measurement scales–the Apgar scale–that spawned one of the greatest advances in the American system of health.

Dr. Virginia Apgar created the scale in 1953 in response to the terrible observation that all the great advances in medicine in the previous hundred years had been unable to reduce rate of infant death at the time of birth. Though mothers were much more likely to survive the birth of their children, the child still faced a 1-in-30 chance of dying while struggling to come into the world.

Apgar’s solution was simple and stunningly effective. She developed a 5-part scale to measure the condition of babies at birth. In Gawande’s words, it “turned an intangible and impressionistic clinical concept–the condition of new babies–into number that people could collect and compare.” And it focused obstetricians on the relationship between the techniques they employed and the results they produced. 

The results? In the United States today, a baby brought full term dies in just one childbirth of five hundred, and the mother dies in fewer than one birh in ten thousand.

What gets measured gets done, and it gets done better. And when you can prove it gets done better, you can make it spread.

I just spent the day yesterday teaching a department of very smart people how to get their expertise acknowledged and used in their very successful corporation. I often see two obstacles to corporate staff getting the recognition and influence they deserve: 1. they are trying to influence the wrong person (another post for another day) and 2. they can’t give evidence that their advice is right or pays off.

We’re afraid to measure, afraid it’s too complex or costly, and afraid we’ll reveal that we aren’t as competent as we think we are. The lack of measurement doesn’t protect us, it dooms us to play Cassandra, the prophet cursed to tell truths that no one believes. Measurement liberates. Because what gets measured gets done better.

Virginia Apgar puts the lie to the idea that measurement has to be complex or costly. Good measurement doesn’t necessarily take money, but it does require dedication and ingenuity. If we want influence, find something relevant to measure – and improve.

 

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Filed under: Change ManagementCustomer ServiceInfluence and PersuasionLeadershipPatient Service

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