Precision as a Form of Delusion

February 22, 2011 by Wally Bock

I just read an article titled “How can HR departments ensure return on investments in their future leaders?” It’s about ways to get more from your investment of time and energy in talent management.

It’s a perfectly fine article as these things go, suggesting three things you can do to improve your talent management. It’s also an example of our culture’s belief that judgment presented in numerical form is more accurate and “scientific” than a similar judgment presented without the benefit of a decimal point. Consider this sentence.

“Our study found that improved alignment between leadership capabilities and business challenges can improve leadership effectiveness by 34 percent.”

Now, really. I understand how, with decent definitions of “alignment” and “leadership effectiveness” you could say that” increasing alignment improves leadership effectiveness.” But 34 percent? You’re sure it’s not 33.5 percent or 40 percent, right?

It may be true that “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” but not everything that’s measurable is countable.  You can measure leader effectiveness using terms like “excellent” or “awful.” You can measure the change from a prior period by saying that it’s “better” or “worse.” But turning all of this into numbers doesn’t make your judgment any more accurate and may make it less useful.

If you really want to know if your “leadership effectiveness” is getting better or worse, start with a good definition of what you mean. Include examples. Then have some people who know the territory evaluate how you’re doing and describe their judgment and reason in words.

What you get when you do that well is understanding. It may not have the aura of the scientific about it, but it will help you make things better.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

If You Enjoyed This Post...

You'll love getting updates when we post new articles on leadership development, 360 degree feedback and behavior change. Enter your email below to get a free copy of our book and get notified of new posts:

One Trackback

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wally Bock, Envisia Learning. Envisia Learning said: New from our Blog: Precision as a Form of Delusion […]

Follow Envisia Learning:

RSS Twitter linkedin Facebook

Are You Implementing a Leadership Development Program?

Call us to discuss how we can help you get more out of your leadership development program:

(800) 335-0779, x1