The Man Behind the Curtain – How Focusing on Measurements Can Sink Your Team

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”  So said the great Wizard of Oz (or the “very bad man” according to Dorothy).  It turns out that all the smoke and flashing lights and reverb in the voice didn’t quite amount to what was actually happening.  The results were impressive, but how he got there was a bit deceptive.

There is a quote that bothers me every time I hear it: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  Why does it bother me?  Three reasons.

1) It infers that everything of value can be measured.

2) That assumes that by measuring it, it will improve (because as I measure, I adjust if needed.)

3) It also assumes that milestones along the way and the end goal are the most important.

Point #1 is just not true.  Point #2 points to a direct relationship.  If I measure, then I can adjust and make it better.  Much of the time is true, but is not a hard/fast rule/outcome.  It is this last point that we often miss.

There is a practice that I have never agreed with, but is done all the time in MANY companies.  It is “holding over sales.”  There are two versions of this.  One, I turn in 110% of my quota and we hold 10% back on the books for next month.  Two, I lengthen the month from the 21st to the 5th of the next month, just to get sales recorded for the last month.   Because every company is different, I can’t make a judgement on whether it is right or wrong, I just don’t like it as a matter of principle.

For certain sales are measured.  The numbers are achieved.  This is the flashy lights and echoing voice from the Emerald City.  But when you get up close, we find that it is not what is represented.  This works well short term, but long term I have seen this practice land salespeople and sales organizations into trouble down the road.

It’s not only getting there, but HOW you get there (what is behind the curtain).

In the book Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, they point out that “How leaders meet their commitments is at least as important as whether they meet them and is often more important…  Meeting commitments the wrong way can sometimes have extreme consequences.” (131-132)

Measurements are easy to tick off – #1 Done? Check.  #2?  Check.  But how they are accomplished is much more subjective and thus often ignored because it is more difficult to evaluate.  And, it can be argued with.  And it takes more time.  And…  There are many reasons, but the more we ignore the HOW the more the WHAT becomes irrelevant.

My challenge to you: Dig deeper.  It will take more time, but will save a lot of headache down the road.  Your gut feeling will also match the numbers.  And there isn’t anything better when your head hits the pillow at night than knowing that your understanding of what is true matches what you feel is true.