Today, if we were consciously aware of the pervasive impact of measurement on our lives, we would be very surprised just how ubiquitous measurement is. Almost everything in modern life is based on some form of
Measurement. Think for a moment about the critical role of measurement in your daily life.
Literally hundreds of measurement incidents trigger much of what we do during the course of a day – from the moment our alarm clocks wake us up in the morning. We spend much time each day measuring things: time (clocks and calendars), finances (paychecks, bank accounts, budgets, credit, investments, retirement plans), shopping (price comparisons, product quality ratings), weather (temperature, precipitation, wind velocity, humidity, barometric pressure), vehicle operation (speed and gas gauges, maintenance records, specifications), travel (schedules, fares, locations, directions, distances), quantities (lengths, volumes, weights), food (size of portions, recipes, calories,
fat content), education (grades, test scores, graduation requirements), health (vital signs, lab tests, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), sports (scores, batting averages, records), politics (votes, opinion polls) – and hundreds of other measures we use almost daily. Just think of how much measurement goes on as you drive your car or play a round of golf! As Herbert Arthur Klein so rightly said: “Man is a measurer of all things.”
However, most of our daily measurements are so habitual we hardly notice them, much less label them as “measurement.” Because of the pervasiveness of measurement and its integration with so many other activities, it often blends into the background, and we tend to take it for granted. But it is rather obvious that, especially in today’s complex world, we would be in great trouble if we didn’t have measurement to guide our decisions. Consider just a few possible consequences of not measuring in our personal lives: We would never be on time, our health would be at risk, our finances would be a shambles, and we would be constantly running out of gas!
Geniat and Libert say (with only slight exaggeration), “Without the capacity to measure, we would be uncertain, literally, as to where we stood and where we are going. We would not know if we are rich or poor, hot or cold, old or young. The very word ‘measure’ pervades all fields. . . . You can’t make decisions, connections, money, or music without true measurements.” To a large extent, the way we measure success determines the success we will achieve. Unmeasured things cannot be easily replicated, or managed, or appreciated.
Of course, while measurement is a necessary condition for success, it alone is not sufficient for it. We still must take action. A blood pressure reading is not very useful if we ignore it. If we pay attention, however, and
Take appropriate action, it can change our life – or perhaps even save it.
What makes measurement so potent is its capacity to instigate informed action – to provide the opportunity for people to engage in the right behavior at the right time.