Measuring Success Organically

Jim Collins, in Good to Great in the Social Sector, doesn’t buy the excuse that you can’t measure social sector like business. “It doesn’t really matter whether you can quantify your results. What matters is that you rigorously assemble evidence–quantitative or qualitative–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. To throw our hands up and say, ‘But we cannot measure performance in the social sectors the way you can in a business’ is simply lack of discipline. All indicators are flawed, whether qualitative or quantitative…. What matters is not finding the perfect indicator, but settling upon a consistent and intelligent method of assessing your output results, and then tracking your trajectory with rigor.” ( 7)

A final, yet very memorable, nugget of inspiration gleaned from Joe Myers is how we go about measuring success. Myers says “Story is the universal measurement of life,” (79). 

Measure success by the stories that are told, not the stats and numbers.  Stories trickle and spread and inspire others toward the same changes. 

The stories being told reveal the strengths and the shortcomings of the changes at hand.  We need environments and a culture in which people know their story must be told, whether good or bad.


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