Not everything that counts can be counted

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“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

I came across this concept twice recently, and it got me thinking about KPIs. It’s good to know how you’re performing against your goals, but not everything is measured with a number.

I was reading a Dutch book about language, Taalkracht, in which a key idea was that how we name things affects how we experience them.

One way in which this happens is reification, making something abstract into something real. This makes it easier to talk about a concept, but the complexity and ambiguity gets lost in translation.

For example, the concept of customer service is often turned into the Net Promotor Score, which boils it down to only one question “Would you recommend us?”

Think about that for a moment. Is NPS how you experience customer service? Does NPS matter to you as a customer?

The quote at the top of this post was from marketoonist talking about the pitfalls of marketing dashboards giving a false sense of security. Numbers looking impressive versus truly understanding what your customers need and what delights or appals them.

Where do you look when you want to improve performance? In the values of the KPIs or the insights behind them?

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