We measure a great deal in the modern office environment, and the nonprofit world is no different. Finding the right measurement to capture what is truly important, however, takes time and thought. Profit for a business is easy to track, but in the mission-driven world of nonprofits the right outcomes can be hard to quantify.
I was thinking of this while wrapping up James Williams’ Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy. In looking for ways to set boundaries for attention-grabbing technology, Williams turns to measurement as one key. He begins by noting, that “Our goal in advancing measurement should be to measure what we value, rather than valuing what we already measure.”
How do we, both as individuals and as staff members of a large organization, do this work? How do we measure what we value? Williams has a suggestion on the organizational or corporate scale: measure the mission. If we “operationalize in metrics the company’s mission statement or purpose for existing, which is something nearly every company has but which hardly any company actually measures,” Williams suggests we can begin to measure what we value.
That strikes me as an important step toward understanding what organizations should measure, and how we are succeeding in reaching “what we want to want.” As individuals, we can also think about what we measure in terms of our personal missions and callings. Being a little obsessive, I personally track 11 measurements each day for personal growth. (Yes, you can sigh now.) I know of others who have even longer lists. As I pondered this while reading Williams’ book, it dawned on me that perhaps I should consider whether I measure what I value (or simply value what I already measure…like weight gain or loss). You may have similar responses.
Williams ends his book with a call that we—as individuals and as a society—can reclaim our time and our souls if we understand what we value.
“As the mythologian Joseph Campbell said, ‘The modern hero deed must be that of questing to bring to light again the lost Atlantis of the coordinated soul.’ This is true at both individual and collective levels.
In order to rise to this challenge, we have to lean into experiences of awe and wonder. . . .We have to demand that these forces to which our attention is now subject start standing out of our light. This means rejecting the present regime of attentional serfdom. It means rejecting the idea that we are powerless, that our angry impulses must control us, that our suffering must define us, or that we ought to wallow in guilt for having let things get this bad. It means rejecting novelty for novelty’s sake and disruption for disruption’s sake. It means rejecting lethargy, fatalism, and narratives of us versus them. It means using our transgressions to advance the good. This is not utopianism. This is imagination. And as anyone with the slightest bit of imagination knows, ‘imaginary’ is not the opposite of ‘real.’”
I love the challenge in that last paragraph and the truth of that last sentence. Let’s use our imaginations and focus on what we value.
Have a good week.
More to come…