Sage measurement advice from Jim Collins

I was just flipping through my dog-eared edition of “Good to Great and the Social Sectors,” the 2005 monograph by Jim Collins, when I came across this advice:

It doesn’t matter whether you can quantify your results. What matters is that you rigorously assemble evidence — qualitative or quantitative — to track your progress. If the evidence is primarily qualitative, think like a trial lawyer assembling the combined body of evidence. If the evidence is primarily quantitative, then think of yourself as a laboratory scientist assembling and assessing the data.”

Collins goes on to say that being hard isn’t  an excuse for not attempting to measure performance. “All indicators are flawed,” he reminds us.

But, prescient of the charity raters, Collins reminds us that it is important to be curious to learn for its own sake, in pursuit of the greatness to which we aspire. (For me, greatness means really taking on social challenges – making the world the best it can be – whatever your cause.)

2 responses to Sage measurement advice from Jim Collins

  1. Hildy Gottlieb

    Thank you so much for this. It brought me back to one of the most energizing conversations I’ve had with a group.

    They were a learning community of community health professionals (“community health” in that group included foster care, etc. and not just strict “health”). The Learning Community domain was Community Resiliency.

    Working with the Arizona State University Resilience Solutions Group, they had a set of resilience indicators to aim for as their vision. (BTW the Resilience Solutions Group is amazing –

    One of the liveliest discussions we ever had was a 3 hour discussion around the question, “If we are aiming at those indicators as our goal, what might indicators be in real life terms that we are getting there?”

    They talked about less fences and more conversation and so many things that Jim Collins expresses in your quote.

    I love having this conversation with groups for two reasons.

    First, because it leads to really brilliant conversation about what concrete indicators might be of such seemingly UNconcrete change. Someone in a different facilitation on the indicator subject once proposed that perhaps a reduction in lawsuits would be an indicator of more civil discourse. So it’s really fun to watch groups try to find some indicator of something that actually matters.

    But the real fun is what I know you have found with groups you work with – just giving ourselves permission to ask the question and discuss the change we want to see in real terms.

    So thank you for bringing back a very energizing memory for me this morning!

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