Well I think most of us can agree that measurements are an essential aspect of running our lives and organizations effectively. Most of us have probably heard that one quote about goals from that one church guy. What we measure largely shapes what we do, so we need to be careful and intelligent in our measuring systems.
I have worked with a couple organizations now, that after several years of operating, they are now wanting to evaluate and measure their impact tom improve and change their operations. Usually such a conversation will start with evaluating the logic model of their organization in order to determine critical areas that should be measured. Neither of the organizations had really thought through all the parts of their model, and the activities they need in order to produce their visions they have for helping people. So, it seems to me that creating an organization that starts with measurement and evaluation worked into it’s systems is really critical. This process immediately forces one to really carefully consider efficiency and effectiveness at every level of the organization. This can really change the outcomes of organizations and the work they engage in. I also think that they are going to be more open and adaptable to change, as well as more likely to operate best on best practices in the field.
Because measurement can have such powerful effects upon individuals and organizations, we have to be really careful what we measure and to what extent. If we only engage in work that we can gauge the impact by clear quantitative measurements, we might miss many of the most important activities we could engage in. We also have to have effective ways of gathering data and making conclusions from our data.
I’m just starting to learn and understand more about both qualitative and quantitative research. There is a wide range in quality of research, and different methods that produce varying levels of confidence in the results you produce. There is far too much bad research, with people measuring the wrong things, or people inappropriately interpreting findings. There are definite limitations to research and measurements. Some of these limitations include practical limitations, ethical, and just the fact that humans are the ones doing research with all our biases and imperfections.
But with all this said, research is evolving and becoming better. Experimentalists are finding ways to test and measure things that were previously believed to be impossible. I think that data, measurement, and evaluation is vastly underused by organizations trying to make the world a better place, and that too much measurement taking place is probably rarely the case.