The title of this post is often attributed to Deming, although if you look at the bottom of THIS page it is reasonably clear that he did not say this. He did however, in his “out of the crisis”, cite Lloyd S Nelson with “the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them”.
Another quote, “not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted”, is wrongly attributed to Einstein. It appears to have first been published by William Bruce Cameron. Not that the source of these quotes matters much, what matters is the point of them.
The point – KPI’s are important, their effectiveness in driving the correct behaviours to achieve desired results is unquestionable. However, chose the wrong ones and you get the wrong behaviours, you will also be unlikely to get the desired results. Henrik Kjærulff recently published a post on the key elements of good KPIs, it is concise and to the point.
The REAL point – there is a misbelief out there that you must measure everything, and that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Deming said that, but without the rest of the sentence, it reads incorrectly, what he actually said was “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth”.
Measure what is important – keep the numbers down to the minimum required to achieve the result – keep it simple. However, there is so much more to managing than counting numbers & reporting results. Spend less time staring at spread sheets and more time observing actual work – you’ll learn so much more and be much more effective.