in Leadership, Leading Projects, Process Improvement, Quality Improvement

Quality and Quantity – The Conversation Continues

On 8th Jan, 2010, I wrote a post on Quality and Quantity – Compliance and Excellence. The post resulted in some very interesting conversations in form of comments and in-person conversations. The gist of my post was:

Quality is to first ask “Why are we doing it?”, “Is it worth doing it at-all?”. Quality is to first seek the purpose. Once purpose is clear, numbers can help you measure progress.

It is almost easy to figure out “What” and “How” of processes once you have addressed “Why”.

On 11th Jan 2010, Harvard Business Review’s blog featured a post titled “Why Good Spreadsheets Make Bad Strategies” by Roger Martin. The ideas presented in the post complements my views. Here is an excerpt of some key ideas presented in the post at HBR.

We live in a world obsessed with science, preoccupied with predictability and control, and enraptured with quantitative analysis. We live by adages like: "Show me the numbers" and truisms such as "If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count."

The fundamental shortcoming is that all of these scientific methods depended entirely on quantities to produce the answers they were meant to generate. They were all blissfully ignorant of qualities.

Adding up the quantity of credit outstanding won’t tell us nearly enough about what role it will play in our economy. Adding up sales won’t tell us what kind of a company we really have. We need to have a much deeper understanding of their qualities — the ambiguous, hard-to-measure aspects of all of these features.

We must stop obsessing about measurement so much that we exclude essential but un-measurable qualities from our understanding of any given situation.

Spot on! 

To me, this is the power of social media. You take a subject to explore, think and write about it. On the other side of globe, someone else is thinking about the very same subject, but in a different context. Different views come out, complement each other and just take the subject forward. It is also a great validation of your thoughts.

Hat tip to my friend Tanveer Naseer for pointing me to the HBR post via Twitter.

  1. Thanks Tanmay, for the mention. I appreciate that. 🙂

    I think you’re absolutely right about this being one of the big advantages of social media – the effortless dissemination of ideas and thoughts that either reinforce what we’ve pondered or which fuel new ones.

    The value of the current economic upheaval is that it’s a ripe opportunity for us to evaluate if, with all these various metrics, we’re truly getting the full picture of what’s really going on. Personally, I think most would be hard pressed to say yes.

    As your piece and the one written in the HBR point out, one key factor that’s been overlooked for far too long are qualitative factors, which play a far greater role than what we considered in the past.
    .-= Tanveer Naseer´s last blog ..I’m More Than Just A Number =-.

  2. Hi Tanveer,

    Thank you friend, for commenting and taking this conversation forward.

    Being into processes, I am myself inclined to evaluate processes based on metrics, but sometimes, a hard-nosed focus on metrics can just prove to be counter-productive if qualitative aspects are overlooked.

    As the HBR post finely exemplifies it, adding sales figures does not determine the kind of organization we are creating.

    Keep reading!

    .-= Tanmay Vora´s last blog ..Quality and Quantity – The Conversation Continues =-.

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