Measure, Control and Improve

MeasureWhat cannot be measured cannot be controlled.  When you measure, you can control.  When you can control, you can improve.

Andrew Carnegie:

One evening as the sun was setting and the workers had left for the day, Andrew Carnegie was walking past the finished steel storage area in the steel manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania.

He found 9 bars lying in the area, which had been manufactured that day.

Without much thought, Carnegie grabbed a piece of coal and wrote the number 9 on the wall, next to the bars.

Next evening, as he was walking by the same area, Carnegie noticed that the number 9 was struck out and the number 11 appeared next to it. A few evenings later, the number of steel bars produced had gone up to 20 and then some more.

The simple act of counting the finished bars led to a competitive surge and production increased.

This story in very simple terms goes to show that it is human tendency to compete and “raise the bar”.

Measurement is simply setting a benchmark that should be improved. In the story above, Carnegie set the benchmark at 9.

Put measurements in place:

As a leader, you must look for ways to quantify and measure performance, time lags, process variations and other perceived abstract variables.

Usually the excuse is that something cannot be measured.  But you must challenge yourself to come up with an acceptable and logical measurement for what it is that you are doing.    

You can measure almost anything:

Consider that over time, we have been able to measure some very abstract concepts such as feel and sight, as illustrated by the following:

    1. Feeling of warmth – temperature (unit of measure: Celsius, Fahrenheit)

    2. Spiciness (Scoville scale) – did’nt know that the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is the hottest pepper in the world.  Check out this article on what would happen if you ate an entire Trinidad Moruga pepper

    3. Color – RGB, HSL (Source:,  Copyright © 2010 Kevin J. Walsh)

Now using the concept of symmetry and facial perfection, there is an attemt to even measure beauty!

Measure, then control and then improve:

Once you begin measuring the results over a period of time, you will find great insights within the data so collected. Patterns in the data will indicate whether things are improving or deteriorating. You will be able to determine factors that affect the results, and institute controls. Once you bring a process or performance under control, you can then begin to improve.

Effective leaders understand the value of measurement. What cannot be measured cannot be controlled. What cannot be controlled cannot be improved.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you’ve seen or used measurements effectively, or even stories on how instituting measurements led to improvement.

Images: © Choko! | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images