Your New Year’s Resolution: Clean Out Your Measurement Junk Drawer

As you can see on this year’s Santa Wish List, there’s a lot that I see wrong with measurement these days. It can mostly be summed up by what I’ll call “the measurement junk drawer.” You know you have one. It’s that place, generally in the kitchen, with contents that look like the image above.  They are catch-alls for the miscellaneous  pieces that fall off furniture and appliances that you haven’t gotten around to gluing back on, as well as an assortment of safety pins, clothes pins, push pins, bolts, screwdrivers, corkscrews, and whatever else doesn’t have a home of its own.

Is Your Measurement a Junk Drawer?

In most organizations, that’s what measurement looks like. You have some truly useful handy tools like an accounting system, a CRM system, or Google Analytics that, like a screwdriver and a corkscrew, can fix many things (especially the corkscrew.) You also have a bunch of miscellaneous social analytics and media monitoring numbers that you’re not quite sure what to do with, or what they mean. So you throw them into the measurement mix just in case you need them someday.

And of course in some corners of most companies you still have a bunch of worthless old metrics like AVEs. They probably date back to before your time, and you may not have a clue what they really mean. But someone may ask for them someday, so you keep them around just in case.

Tidy It Up!

So I suggest that everyone do to their measurement systems what I just did to my junk drawer. I pulled it out and dumped the contents on the kitchen counter. It’s amazing (OK, amazing to me, anyway) what I discovered:

  • 10 more rubber bands than I’ll ever need.
  • 9 pieces of jewelry, including one that a friend had thought she lost years ago. Ditto a pair of earrings.
  • 8 screws that are supposed to be holding my kitchen chairs together.
  • 7 bunches of suction hooks that I can’t remember why I thought I needed.
  • 6 bottoms to things, the tops of which I’d thrown out because I couldn’t find the bottoms.
  • 5 pot hooks.
  • 4 tubes of Chapstick.
  • 3 key chains.
  • 2 pairs of scissors.
  • And, thankfully, no partridges in pear trees!

My point is that in that huge pile of a mess there were some very useful tools, some unexpected gems, and some other things that will help improve my daily life. But I also threw out roughly half of what was in there.

So, here’s what my junk drawer looks like now (she said proudly):

If companies did an occasional “dump” of their measurement systems, I bet they’d find the same. There would be some very useful tools. And then there’d be some metrics they may not have paid attention to in awhile, but that could really be handy. Those metrics might make their lives easier by showing them what stupid things they could stop doing and what smart things they could do more of. And of course, they’ll find an awful lot of metrics and measures that are so old or irrelevant that no one will miss them when they are gone.

Happy New Year to you and your measurement! ∞

(Big thanks for the image up top to Deborah Chapman Newell.)

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.