What Will You Measure in 2017?

By John Pearson

Max De Pree reminds board members in his 91-page gem, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, that “a good board will measure the appropriate inputs as well as the outputs. Failure to measure what matters damages our future.”

If you don’t have this quick-reading book for board members, buy it or download it. We’ll be dipping into this book regularly in 2017.

Reading Called to Serve this year reminded me again how elegantly De Pree discusses results in all of his books, especially Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community, especially in chapter four, “What Shall We Measure?”

Today—the last day of the year—is the perfect time to assess what you measured this past year and what your board plans to measure in 2017. Heed De Pree’s wisdom:

“In my experience a failure to make a conscious decision about what it is we’re going to measure often causes discombobulation and a lack of effectiveness and a lack of achievement.”

“Yet measurement is essential in an organization for several reasons. It’s directly connected to the way an organization can mature and grow. And it directly affects whether or not we’re going to reach our potential—how close we’re going to come to our potential. The idea of measurement in an organization is also directly connected to the whole concept of renewal, one of the essential ingredients of which is abandonment. What are we going to give up? What are we going to abandon? None of us have unlimited resources.”

“The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”

“Broadly speaking we can begin by thinking about how we measure inputs and outputs. The Soviet Union believed that in many cases managers should be rewarded with bonuses based on input. If you were running a shoe factory, your bonus as a manager was based on how much leather, how many nails, how many pounds of glue entered the process. If all the shoes came out for left feet, well, that was too bad. Nobody cared—except, of course, the people who needed the shoes."

He continues, “If you made furniture, your bonus was calculated on the how many board feet of lumber entered the plant, not on how many chairs came out. A strange system. We should be surprised not that it disintegrated but that it lasted as long as it did.”

De Pree adds, “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.” Then he suggests you measure the “tone of the body” in your organization. Not easy—but he gives you clues on how to do it, like gauging a team’s sense of urgency. Good stuff!

As your board considers what to measure next year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

QUESTION: As you measure outputs and outcomes, are your board members, board chair, CEO, and senior team members all on the same page?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


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