People often say that they learn from experience. This is dangerous thinking when applied to organisations. It is true that some events teach us lessons but often the views we have ‘based on experience’ are no more than superstitions.

You cannot learn without theory. Theory enables us to ask questions, to test ideas, to establish whether they are workable and also whether they are not.

Having a theory implies taking measures; measures which will confirm or refute a theory or ‘hunch’. People cannot learn without measures.  When measures are not in use (or the wrong measures are in use) people rely on opinions and opinions soon lead to attribution of blame,  political behaviour, and self-preservation. The failure to use measures of the right sort and in the right way is probably the biggest single cause of dysfunction in our organisations. It is also an important step to establishing a learning organisation.

Measurement is a vital tool in developing knowledge and theory.  Theory is a prerequisite of prediction. Management’s job is prediction.

In Why better measures lead to better lives, Vanguard’s Jo Gibson’s describes good and bad measures in people-centred systems, such as health and social care services. 

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