Story of the Day for Thursday February 16, 2012
The Main Thing
David’s conscience pierced him after he numbered the people. So David told the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in doing this.”
2 Samuel 24:10
Rory Sutherland, a British advertising guru, likes to cite the maxim: Any metric that becomes a target loses its value as a metric.
Much to our relief he explains what he means. Businesses seek ways to measure their progress toward their company’s goals. But once the focus becomes improving any certain statistic, the measurement is no longer reliable.
And, since my explanation is even more confusing than Sutherland’s maxim, let me give some examples.
A good goal for a shipping company would be to make a profit by providing timely deliveries of packages. So far so good. But suppose the company looks at their delivery times and focuses on improving this statistic? Once quicker delivery time becomes the goal, the best way to reach this objective is to cancel delivery to more remote areas. The result: the company’s statistics improve. But profits and service to the customer declines.
Sutherland gives a similar example with airline companies. How can an airline measure improved service? One way is by an increase in on-time departures. Departure times are measured from pushback — when the jet begins to move from the terminal. Once companies make it their goal to increase on-time departures, passengers often find themselves sitting on the runway for longer periods. But now latecomers are unable to board the flight. Again, by shifting the focus from the true goal of the company to improving the “numbers,” the statistics become a false indicator of progress.
Seeking to measure success, in other words, can sometimes make us less successful.
David should’ve known better. He had witnessed how God took a young shepherd boy and used him to defeat a fearsome warrior named Goliath. David saw how God blessed a valiant warrior — even though his followers were few and he was always on the run.
Now that David was anointed king, he should’ve learned that God had chosen him for his purposes, and that he would prosper as long as he trusted in the strength of the Lord.
Instead, David wanted to measure his strength. He focused, not on the power of God, but on the strength of his fighting force. David ordered Joab, his army commander, to number the people. Only afterward did he realize he was relying on the wrong measurement for success and asked for God’s forgiveness.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
(copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)