Measures of LO Effectiveness LO5864

Virginia I. Shafer (
Mon, 26 Feb 1996 23:29:41 -0700

Replying to LO5796 --

Ron Davison wrote:

>Put less emphasis on measuring your people than measuring your system
>(including your processes, policies and philosophies)...
>You are right to think that it is critical to change measurement if you
>want to change organizational behavior.

On the same day and quite independently, another list member inquired:

>>Have you ever thought about how to measure how far an organisation has
>>travelled, perhaps in relation to others within its sector, along the
>>learning organisation road?
>>My only idea is to perhaps take an industry and to identify when significant
>>change has happened over the past 5 to 10 years. Then, for each organisation,
>>look to see how quickly they have reacted or indeed anticipated this change.

To which I replied:

As a former Quality Advisor, we often wrestled with this notion of
measuring how far down the road we were on our quality journey. The first
obvious method was to lay out measurable goals and keep track of progress
toward accomplishing them. This never satisfied me. Deming was so right
when he said the most important aspects are not measurable.

Why do you need to know how far an organization has traveled? Is it not a
measure of time? I.E., we're two years down the road; we've been
practicing LO principles for six months now, etc. If you mean "When do
you know you've become a Learning Organization?" then I would suggest the
answer would be internal to each organization. It would be an entirely
different measure to determine how EFFECTIVE the organization is in
practicing LO principles. That is, how well did we react to X discovery;
did we make good decisions when confronted with Y restrictive regulation,
etc. Theoretically, you could quantify reaction time to external factors,
but since each decision has unique inputs, each reaction time would be
different. You'd have no basis for comparison. You could be what I would
call lazy and just watch the bottom line of several companies to see who
"survived" a shared experience best, but as you must know "bottom lines"
are produced with smoke and mirrors--what is an asset today can be a
liability tomorrow depending on how we want to report and to whom we

I'm thinking of a pharmeceutical example. Three companies manufacture
ibuprofen. Only one is known to you to be embracing the philosophy of the
LO. They've been arm wrestling market share. When you look at the long
view, each company's experience is quite equitable. They've each had the
lead in the market for about as many months as the others. Suddenly, the
medical community reveals ibuprofen has been linked to violent tendencies.
Most people stop buying the product. How does each company react?

Is "how quickly they have reacted" of interest, or how effective their
reaction? Do you care if they "anticipated this change?" Of course, the
question you ask is different depending on whether or not you're a
shareholder, an employee, a consumer/customer of the product, CEO, etc.

Again, I'm just a bit confused as to what you think you need or want to
know. Before you can get information out of the system, you have to
develop the question you really want answered and you must know what
you're going to do as a result of the information. What action(s) will
you take once you know "how far you've travelled?"

As Goldratt wrote in _The Haystack Syndrome: Sifting Information Out of
the Data Ocean_, "Tell me how you measure me and I will tell you how I
will behave. If you measure me in an illogical way, do not complain about
illogical behavior."

Just some thoughts as food for,

Ginger Shafer
The Leadership Dimension
"Bringing Leadership to Life"

-- (Virginia I. Shafer)

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