Going Quant While Staying Quaint

I have written and presented on the use of quantifiable performance measurements in the development profession for a number of years.   Having a thoughtfully-crafted set of quantifiable performance measurements is a simple, straightforward, and powerful way to encourage, assess, and reward effectiveness.  In general, most development professionals who care about their craft want to know how effectiveness is defined and rewarded.

Last month, Anand Giridharadas wrote skeptically and provokingly in the New York Times about the ubiquitous use of quantifiable measures.  His piece reminded me how important it is to get metrics right.

The primary problem with the implementation of any quantifiable measure – or metric – is that they measure unimportant (or worse, counter-productive) activities.  Witness large bank executives getting huge bonuses because they met certain quantifiable goals all the while their banks were failing miserably.

So, how do you develop metrics that encourage people to be their best and add more value to your organization?  How do you develop metrics that support long-held best practices and values of good development work?  The key is to make sure the measurements are aligned with the behaviors and outcomes that are truly valued and advance the entire organization.

In other words, make sure that the “quant supports the quaint.”

To define “the quaint” in your organization start with three simple questions:

  1. What does our organization value? Are there specifics values identified at your organization as important to constituent service and establishing your brand (example:  serve constituents effectively)?  If so, any metrics should encourage and support these values.
  2. What does our department/division value? Are there specific values identified at the departmental or divisional level (example:  teamwork)?  Again, if so, any metrics should encourage and support these values.
  3. What do we value as development professionals in working with donors?  Are there values – such as securing face-to-face visits with donors, embracing a donor-centric approach, or using resources efficiently – that your team agrees are important?  If so, any metrics should encourage and support these values.

Staying quaint while going quant means that we first remind ourselves which behaviors, activities, and outcomes we value and wish to encourage.  When your metrics program is built to support the specific answers to these 3 questions, you can be assured that the quant will support the quaint.


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