Do numbers tell the tale?

Do numbers tell the tale?

The Dutch expression “Meten is Weten!” is a common saying, it implies that if you don’t know something, you should measure it! The English equivalent is “Numbers tell the tale”. At Measuremen, we of course completely agree with this statement and it’s actually one of our company core values. Measuring should be as simple as that. But the longer we’ve been measuring, the more we’ve learned about how challenging good measuring can be.

Measuring should be done right to get what you need. For example, imagine you want to measure the success of your company. You ask your sales executive: “How successful is our company?” after which she answers: “We made 230 sales this month! Quite successful!”. She is right about that. Now you ask that same question to your HR-manager. He might say: “Well, we have 3 people with burn-outs, not so successful.” He is also right about that. You can ask the same question to different managers and you will get all different answers, even though they are all correct answers. So there might be something wrong with the question. “Success” is a subjective term, which can be approached from different angles.

Measure what matters
Every manager in an organisation has a personal definition for doing their job successfully. You can try to measure their success through a quantitative “variable”. For Facility Managers, their variables might be costs per square meter/foot, occupancy rates, or workplace experiences. But measuring one thing and defining that as your success, might be too simplistic. Focusing too much on a set of variables might make you overlook (and abandon) some other variables which you didn’t measure. For example, if you solely focus on the variable “costs of inventory”, you might forget the cost of space. Furthermore, you might be cutting down on variables (the inventory) which interferes with the productivity of employees. The HR manager, who focuses on this variable might be quite pissed about that. Therefore, having a range of variables, zooming in- and out once in a while, and taking different perspectives might give you a broader and more integral approach. But watch out, working closely together between different managers might be a result of this!

Measurements as indicators
Measurements are always indicators for something that might require action. Seeing high occupancy rates in your building, for example, might give you a feeling that there is something wrong. However, high occupancy is not absolutely good or bad. For example, if you have a few desks in an enormous room, a high occupancy might not be worrying. The figure here shows two rooms with the same occupancy rate, but with completely different circumstances. If you see this, then you can also imagine how other factors (like dividers, activities, or placement of the desks) influence the “problem” of high occupancy. Therefore, you should realise that real life is complex and that one objective measurement might not capture the whole situation. There are a lot of factors influencing each other, making it sometimes difficult to give a direct meaning to your measures. 

Advanced measuring
Although one measure might not say a lot about your organisation, multiple measures do increase the usefulness of your measures. When you perform multiple measurements at a time, you can start to calculate ratios. For example, the number of employees across desks, compared to the square meters (see figure) gives you the relative occupancy which might be a more useful statistic. Secondly, measuring multiple times over days, months, and years, give insight into how things change over time. Through repetition, measurements become useful because they give you relative change. You know how it was before and can see how it is now. The variation in variables can give you meaningful insights into how fast things can change and which factors influence change. 

Conclusions
Measuring your organisation will always give you more objective information about its state. However, you should really think-through what to measure, and how to use it. If used properly, data can be a great support in decision making. At Measuremen, we provide many ways for measuring the right thing you desire to measure. We can measure all sorts of relevant workplace metrics through different methodologies and technologies of valid and useful measuring. Through insightful, interactive data visualisations, you could use data properly to support decision making in the most meaningful way.