Should measures be “SMART”?

I was having a debate with a friend of mine recently.  He said that all measures should be “SMART”.

The term is usually used for goals and says that the goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (or something similar).

The problem I pointed out was that the M in SMART means measurable so the concept of SMART measures is a bit redundant. He responded that in his experience many of the “measures” he saw in place were not actually being measured and so, he claimed, it would be good to remind people to actually have measures that they will measure.

I am not sure if he is exactly right or not, but I came up with my own standard for measures.  Its a little lazy compared to some, but I find it useful.

I think measures should be Credible, Useful and Easy (CUE).  

The most important component is Useful – the meansure must assist you to either make a better decision, change a specific bahaviour or reduce the ambiguity in your understanding of something.  It is suprising how easy it is to forget that the measure is only worthwhile if it can be used for something – in which case you should understand what you are likely to use it for before designing the measure.

But the measure also needs to be Credible so that you and others are confident that you can rely on it.  Note however that being Credible without being Useful is actually worse that not being Credible – you will confidently make decisions on the wrong data.  Thus you also need to understand where the measure will sound good but not be relevant.

Easy means that it should be easy enough to measure to make it worth doing.  So a measure might be worthwhile even if it is a substantial effort as long as you gain a huge benefit from it.  But my experience is that if it is hard to measure then people will forget to measure it, take short cuts and even fudge the information.  So the harder it is to perform the measure the more you need to ensure the people doing the measuring believe it is Credible and Useful to measure it propoerly.

So there you have it – measures should be CUE.  Not quite the same ring to it as saying goals should be SMART but good enough to be useful (I hope).

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