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How to measure the soft aspects of an organization.

By Ruth Tearle

qualitativeMost organizations are very good at measuring those parts of the business that use hard, quantitative metrics such as sales, profits and return on investment.

Yet when it comes to measuring one of the biggest costs to an organization – the costs related to employing and managing people – we often struggle to find meaningful qualitative measures.

Anyone involved in change management, strategy implementation, leadership, training, organizational development and managing talent will talk about how difficult it is to find suitable qualitative measures for what they do.

Quantifying a qualitative measure just doesn’t work.

Many leaders try to measure the softer side of a business by assigning numbers to activities. For example they will measure leadership, strategic alignment or transformation by:

  • Quantity isn’t quality.

    Quantity isn’t impact.

    The number of road shows delivered by the CEO.
  • The number of workshops given to employees to change a culture.
  • The number of employees trained on a new strategy or system.
  • The number of hours leaders spend on mentoring or coaching their managers.

Yet these measures are not enough. Just because a CEO has presented a road show, doesn’t mean that employees will now do what he expects them to do.

From measuring activities to measuring impact.

The key to measuring the softer side of an organization is to measure impact rather than activities.

Recently I was asked for dashboard to measure change management initiatives – one that an executive team would not construe as ‘fluffy.’

I struggled to either find or create such a tool until I experienced an important insight.

The dashboards that I disliked, and those that executives would describe as ‘fluffy’ – were all of those that measured the activities of a change manager against some type of checklist. I recognized that in order to create a meaningful change management dashboard, I would need to measure impact rather than activities.

Measuring impact – a way to measure the softer aspects of an organization.

Most of the qualitative and leadership work we do, is about improving the effectiveness of individual employees or teams or aligning what they do to a new goal.

Once I created a dashboard that measured the impact of change management on employees – and those stakeholders that affected employee behaviour, I had a dashboard that measured something worthwhile. This was the impact of change management on employee effectiveness.

I then noticed that that improving the effectiveness of both individual employees and teams is the end result of most of the qualitative work that we do.

Measuring individual employee effectiveness.

For employees to be effective (and to be worth the amount they are being paid) each employee needs to:

  • Know what is expected of him/her.
  • Have the ability to do what is expected.
  • Know how to behave in order to get the results the organization wants.
  • Have the support he/she needs from his manager/team and other colleagues to do what he/she needs to do.
  • Have the motivation to do what is expected of him.
  • Have the resources to do what is expected of him.
  • Get recognized and rewarded for doing what is expected of him.
  • Support others in his team, and in related teams to do what is expected of them.

Measuring team effectiveness.

Effective teams are those where each individual and the team as a whole performs at their best.

In high performance teams, team members:

  • Know what is expected of them and why.
  • Know who will play what role. Who will do what by when.
  • Know how they will be measured and rewarded.
  • Are motivated to support one another.
  • Are motivated, equipped and skilled to do what is expected of them
  • Know how to behave in a way that gets the best out of every individual and the team as a whole.

When something changes in an organization, for example, there is a new strategy, a change in structure, a new system or process, a merger - it often affects both the individual employee and teams in some way.

How individual employees are affected by a change:

  • He/she is no longer clear about what is expected of him/her.
  • He/she feels that he/she is no longer recognized/rewarded for doing what is expected.
  • He/she no longer has support or skills, to do what is expected.
  • He/she no longer is motivated to do what is now expected.

How teams are affected by a change.

Most leadership work is designed to get employees and teams operating effectively - in line with a change.
  • Team members are no longer clear about their roles, responsibilities.
  • They no longer know whether or not they can trust one another to perform at their best, or count on one another’s support.

This is why most of the work around OD interventions, implementing new strategies, systems or projects, restructuring, retrenchments, transformation and cultural changes is designed to get employees and teams operating effectively again. Which is why measuring the impact of interventions on employees and teams can be a powerful way of measuring the soft side of an organization.

You may also like:


  • Change management dashboard for projectsUse this change management dashboard to measure the current state of change management on your project. Get advice on what you still need to do to ensure success of change management.

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