What gets measured gets managed… So measure relationships more than money

By John Clifton

There is a classic quote about management which says “what gets measured gets managed”. However, the full quote, as Simon Caulkin points out, says this:

What gets measured gets managed – even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation to do so.

In community organising terms power is defined as the capacity to act. There are two types of power: organised people and organised money. For most churches there’s not usually much money so we rely on the power of our people and the depth of the relationships that people build with each other. When it comes to the state and the market, however, they don’t have many people but they do have money. We can all think of obvious examples of how the state uses money as a lever of power: taxation, fines, tendering processes. We can think of even more obvious examples for how the market uses money as a lever of power.  Just a week or so ago I met a family of five, the three children were all in primary school, whose debit card had been used fraudulently and, despite their attempts, had not yet been reimbursed the money that they had lost.  When I met them they were waiting for the money to be put back into their account on Monday. Their account had been overdrawn since the week before and they had been threatened with charges for the overdraft. The family were scared, disoriented, and unfamiliar with such a situation. They came to The Army for help to get through the weekend.  This is just one example of how the market and its money impinges upon the everyday life of people.  It even happens accidentally simple sheet or simply due to bureaucratic or technological errors.  It becomes the responsibility of the power of people (civil society) to push back against the power of money (state and market).

I have been a Salvation Army officer for four years. One of the things that has amazed me during this time is how little accountability there is for visitation.  This is in contrast to how much accountability there is for corps finances. We submit weekly spreadsheets about money. Our visitation book is looked at maybe once or twice in a year.  It would be interesting to know if this bureaucratic bias is similar in other countries.

If it is correct that people and the strength of our relationships are the best mechanism to generate our capacity to act, then surely we should be measuring  the most effective way to do that: one-to-one meetings, which we call visitation.  On pages 16-18 of ‘Marching Towards Justice‘ we define visitation as 30-45 minutes of personal contact with someone, where they are to be found, with a view to furthering their spiritual interests. We make the assumption that furthering someone’s spiritual interest involves their engagement in justice-seeking and developing their capacity as an active citizen.  What gets measured gets managed even if that process of measuring damages the organisation. It is my fear that we measure money too much at the expense of our personal relationships with each other. What would happen if we measured the number of visits a Salvation Army officer or soldier did each week with as much diligence as we do our financial returns and cartridges (tithes)?

Our orders and regulations and our policies and procedures have the capacity to guide our behaviour. There are occasions when they can guide our behaviour out of fear of what might happen. However, there are also occasions when they can guide our behaviour positively because we want things to happen.  In the UK territory we’re going through a big review called Fit For Mission.  It would be exciting if some of the structural and bureaucratic changes led to a bias towards spending time in one-to-one meetings, or visitation.  It’s a really great opportunity for this.

I know, as much as other officers, how important it is to demonstrate financial integrity. I take this as given. However, I am also aware how easy it is for the hard work of building relationships to take a back seat to an urgent deadline.  If we are serious about seeking justice and our participation in the kingdom of God, then the long and patient investment of time and energy into the relationships of people in our Corps must be our priority.

Questions for reflection and discussion:
  1. Is time or money a more valuable resource?
  2. What do you think would happen at your Corps if the officers and soldiers were held accountable for visitation as much as they were for financial returns?
  3. What would change if you tithed your time (as well as your money) and dedicated this to creating community where there is none or strengthening it where it’s weak?

10 thoughts on “What gets measured gets managed… So measure relationships more than money”

  1. Hi John thank you for raising important issues here. I would agree that relationships and community are vital to mission and as leaders and soldiers we need to be held accountable. Your questions are good discussion starters and I will add these to my ongoing reflections about the culture of mutual accountability. However can I pose one question back to you – how would you as an officer like to held accountable for visitation and relationship in your setting?

    1. I think this is an important blog John. And I like the way you are re-orienting visits from purely pastoral to visits that lead to action. A couple of reflections/questions. When talking about visitation, what proportion of ‘visits’ would you recommend should be ‘internal’ (corps members) to ‘external’ (community members)? I know that this boundary is not always clear but you know what I mean! In terms of accountability (and a little in response to Drew’s question) I can almost hear the collective sigh of officers who might read this and fear more paper filling admin required on visits made each week. Perhaps a way to look at this is not to measure it in a bureaucratic way but a relational way. Could we have a level of mutual accountability that challenges all leaders (COs, local leaders, divisional staff, Territorial staff, all the way up) to make visiting a priority? That way, when the DC (or whoever) comes ‘visiting’ the standard question both ways is – ‘how’s your visiting going?’ If you’re not being visited yourself then clearly you can’t be held accountable. Equally if you’re neglecting your visiting then you can’t answer properly.

      1. In terms of proportion, I think that will vary at any given time. I’m not sure about an ‘internal’ ‘external’ ratio, but maybe thirds – those who have more responsibility than me, those who have similar levels of responsibility to me, and those for whom I am responsible. So kind of up, sideways, and down. (I just mean that in terms of looking at a hierarchical structure – not in the sense that people are less or more value each other). This would probably also include political, business, other civil society institutions. Do you have thoughts on the ‘ratio’?

        I think you sum up the mutual accountability thing well. However, if it were a choice about collecting financial data and collecting visiting data through a paper-filling exercise, I would choose the visiting one every time! It would encourage me to visit more if I knew I was going to be saying I’ve done ‘x’ visits this week.

    2. Hi Drew,
      I think there are a few ways to be accountable to each other about visits. One could be through an electronic visitation book – ie. an app. This would mimic financial returns and be ‘live’. It also weight to campaigning by being able to say ‘we have spoken to ‘x’ number of people and we have learned ‘y” or ‘this is an example of how embedded we are in our communities’. I have begun experimenting using Evernote and find it helps me keep on track of who I’ve been in touch with.
      Another way is by this being an expected topic of discussion in visits. So asking ‘how is your visiting going?’. I’ve only raised it in the post in terms of top-down accountability – but COs should be expected to be asked by their Soldiers, other COs, and those with wider responsibility. Everyone should be talking to each other about it! An indicator of whether the accountability is mutual would be if the questions are asked both ways.
      How about you? Any thoughts on how this might happen?

  2. It’s a question I’ve often asked! I understand the need of the “system” to aid with accountability but I think also individuals need to be responsible themselves. Do we give attention to what shouts back the loudest or what is most important? Without wanting to implicate myself too much…I wonder if we could deal with a missed paperwork deadline or a rushed return if it’s because we’ve genuinely had to make it take a back burner over some equally important stuff? Sometimes, in my very limited experience, I’ve seen people seemingly hide behind deadlines or paperwork etc. as a way of shirking from the genuinely hard and difficult task of relationship building through visitation.
    I think it’s probably not quite as clear cut as I’ve perhaps made out, but think it should be “both-and” (accountability from the organisation AND the individual to them self and their calling!)

    1. Totally agree with having individual responsibility for how we spend our time. However, its interesting that lots of Corps announce their money collections each week but not the time invested in building relationships. Why do we feel an obligation to be held to account financially but not relationally?

  3. Visitation: the single, biggest guilt inducing element of my officership. (Surely it’s not meant to feel like that??)

    What counts as a visit/one-to-one? Meeting at home or other location? Getting called aside to chat to someone who has just popped into the charity shop? Talking through an issue with a helper who lingers after toddler group, or a band member after rehearsal?
    Not all these go in the visitation book, so I wonder how we record them? Is it as simple as creating a culture of mutual accountability with those who support us?

    1. Hi Marcus – sorry if I triggered guilt! Maybe that’s because you know its really important too! My post should be seen as more of a structural/bureaucratic observation about what we (corporately) seem to really value rather than

      When I’m talking about visitation, I’m referring to how we’ve defined it on pages 16-18 of ‘Marching Towards Justice’ which, summarised, is 30-45 minutes personal contact with someone where they are to be found with a view to furthering their spiritual interests. We make the assumption that furthering someone’s spiritual interest involves their engagement in justice-seeking and developing their capacity as an active citizen. It would be great to know what you think about that description.

      Thanks for pointing that out about ‘what counts’ – I’ve edited the post to make it clearer.

  4. Careful not to confuse measurement of outcomes and outputs. Quality v quantity. Many or long visits?

Comments are closed.