What Gets Measured Gets Done – recognition and reward

‘What Gets Measured Gets Done’ gets my vote for the single, most dangerous, least accurate, management ‘truism’ of them all!

Suppose we changed the expression to ‘What Gets Recognised Gets Done’.   What difference would that make to the way we do our business?

First of all managers and leaders would have to think about what they want to recognise in their organisation.  This is a big question.  It speaks to values, performance and ethos.  Recognition encourages consideration of many things that cannot be easily ‘measured’.

If Enron had ‘recognised’ more than short term financial performance would things have  turned out differently?  What are Goldman Sachs ‘recognising’ as they pay out £8.4 billion in performance related bonuses to their staff (UK employees of the bank average £320 000 in Performance Related Pay)?  Is financial performance the only thing that matters for Goldman Sachs or do they provide equally strong ‘recognition’ for other things that might matter like ‘ethics’ or ‘long term customer relationships’?

Secondly managers and leaders would have to consider how are they going to recognise it?  What does excellence look like, sound like, feel like?  You can’t just rely on the numbers.  You might have to go and observe people doing the work:

  • see how they speak to customers
  • watch how they contribute to meetings
  • understand how they prepare a paper for the board.

Feedback becomes a primary tool for recognising what works and what doesn’t.  It also becomes a primary tool for reward as people start to get recognition and validation for the good stuff that they do.

So the next time someone says ‘What gets measured gets done’  perhaps you should ask them if they really believe what they say.