Admit it – you’ve been there, taking part in a planning conversation about something that really matters, perhaps a goal people think is important, and someone says the infamous phrase “You can’t measure that”. It is like the air is sucked out of the room.  The conversation stops and rarely does someone have the comeback that would allow you to keep focused on what had seemed, a moment ago, like something really important. So, you move onto the next goal or topic to see if that might reveal something easier to measure.

But don’t give up so soon! I face this challenge with almost every client I work with. The problem isn’t that their goal is not measurable, it’s that the language they’ve used to express the goal is not specific enough. Usually the goal has been stated in vague ideals and fluffy language that everyone interprets differently.

So when someone interrupts an important strategic conversation by stating something’s not measurable, say “Hold your horses, we are moving to measurement too soon. ” and then re-start the dialogue with one of these seven handy retorts:

1. “Why don’t we first agree on what we want to achieve, and then we can discuss what we might measure.”

2. “Let’s imagine that this goal is successfully happening right now, what would be different?”

3. “How would we know if we had reached this goal?”

4. “Imagine we’ve already reached this goal, what would we observe that would convince us of this?”

5. “How could we convince someone else as to whether we had reached this goal or not?”

6. “What problem is this goal going to solve or fix in our organization? And how would we know if it was fixed?”

7. “If we didn’t have this goal, what would we or anyone else be missing out on?”

Now, go ahead, use these productive alternatives next time you hear “That’s not measurable!” and help your group to persevere. You just might discover what is measurable in your goal.

Adura Strategy provides PuMP® Performance Measure Blueprint consulting and workshops through a strategic partnership with Stacey Barr, the Performance Measure Specialist, Australia. All content is under copyright.