In order to measure something, it needs to be stated in measurable terms, such as “increase sales by 10% in the next four quarters” or “achieve 20% market share in the first 12 months after launch.” (If you’d like more on setting measurable objectives check out the paper Linda Hadley and I wrote for the IPR Commission on PR Measurement.)

A MEASUREMENT CHALLENGE

I’m on the Board of the Kellogg Alumni Club of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Board recently created a new metrics function to assess how effective we, the Board, are at achieving our goals. Having a fair amount of experience in this area, I happily volunteered.


The Board’s mission is to:
  1. Enhance the Kellogg alumni experience
  2. Inspire alumni engagement
  3. Elevate the stature of Kellogg in the community
WHAT DO WE REALLY MEAN?
As you can see, we have a measurement challenge at this level. If I were to survey alumni to ask them if the club had enhanced their Kellogg alumni experience in the last year, they probably would not know what I was asking them. And this would be completely fair, because I wouldn’t know what I was asking them. What is an “enhanced alumni experience?” What does it mean? What has to happen for an alumni experience to be enhanced?

We have much the same problem with inspiring “engagement.” What is “engagement.” It is a term that is used frequently these days. Managers want to increase employee engagement; marketers want to increase customer engagement. But what, exactly does this mean? We all have a vague sense of the meaning, but if you were to ask five of us, you likely would get five variations on a theme.

Even determining whether we’ve elevated the stature of Kellogg in the community takes some thinking. What do we mean by stature? What community are we talking about? San Francisco? The whole Bay Area? Do we mean everyone in one of those areas? The voting public? The business community? Senior executives? Alumni of other graduate business schools?

A STEP CLOSER?
We also have some “strategies” for achieving these objectives. We decided we intend to achieve the goals above through:
  1. Encouraging intellectual enrichment and professional growth
  2. Promoting and enabling alumni connection and reciprocity
  3. Expanding on the Kellogg culture of support
  4. Becoming brand ambassadors of Kellogg
  5. Having fun doing it all
With these strategies, we begin to see something we might measure. I can survey Bay Area alumni and ask them if they feel the club has enriched them intellectually or helped them grow professionally in the past year. I can also ask them if the club has helped them connect with other alumni. Reciprocity is ambiguous, but if the Board agrees this means alumni have interacted with each other, in addition to connecting, I could ask that.

The next strategy — “Expanding the Kellogg culture of support” — is too poorly defined to be able to measure as is. Becoming brand ambassadors of Kellogg, too, will take some additional definition. Whether we have fun doing it all, is something we can assess collectively as a Board.

MEASURING CHANGE
To see if the club has had an impact, I would want to compare these theoretical survey results with a benchmark. However, since I probably do not yet have such a benchmark, I could ask Bay Area Alumni if they feel the club has helped them do these things more in the last year than in previous years. It may not be the best way to set up a comparison, but at least it’s something.

ARE WE MEASURING WHAT WE REALLY WANT TO MEASURE?
Another issue has to do with how much vs. how many. We might use a scale to measure how much any given alumnus feels the club has enriched them intellectually vs. how many feel the club has enriched them intellectually. Of course, we can combine these two measures, but they are two measures, not one.

Finally, even though we can measure against some of these strategies, it is unclear that we will have measured against the initial goals of enhancing alumni experience, inspiring engagement and elevating the stature of Kellogg in the community. If we want to measure against these specific goals, we have to define them in measurable terms.

WHAT’S NEXT
So the next step is to go back to Board members and hash out what we mean by these terms and what we think are realistic measures.



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