Leaders craft the cultures of their organizations – consciously or not – by what they consistently measure. If leaders want something to become important – or remain important – in the minds and hearts of organizational stakeholders, they must figure out a way to measure it. On the other hand, if leaders do not highlight a particular value or provide a means to measure it, that stated value will not likely be an actual value in the organization – especially in times of stress and pressure.
A newly-appointed Christian college president decided to initiate a campus-wide focus on the spiritual development of students, faculty, and staff. As he launched the initiative, he faced unforeseen obstacles. Whereas the stated (written) values of the institution emphasized the importance of spiritual formation; however, academics consistently took precedence over spiritual formation in budget and scheduling decisions. In their attempt to understand the situation, the president and senior leadership team began to notice that the academic division had many measurable features by which to evaluate their effectiveness; these measures included student-teacher ratio, the number of faculty members with doctorates, the number of books in the library, and number of computers per student. Therefore, the president’s cabinet embarked on developing metrics in the area of spiritual formation. These measures included benchmarks for quality of chapel services, number of students involved in volunteer local and overseas ministries, number of elective small group meeting on campus, and number of students taking elective spiritual formation courses. As a result, the emphasis on spiritual formation focus sharply increased throughout the campus community.
“We are what we measure” is a pivotal principle for any organization.
Leaders Measure What They Value
For example, good stewardship of finances is – and should be – an important value. This value is more easily measurable and often is a top agenda item in leadership discussions; therefore, financial solvency is easily maintained as a priority value. Conversely, a Christian organization can state that integrity is one of their primary values, but if the leaders do not provide specific, practical ways to highlight and measure with consistency the presence (or absence) of integrity, evidence proves that it will not be a priority real value in the organization when the heat is on.
There is a simple – and profound – power in measuring what we value.