Bill Gates and the Tools for Change.

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As we all know, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused on fixing some of the world’s biggest problems  Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Bill Gates observed that what’s often missing with innovation is “good measurement and a commitment to follow the dataâ€. His point is true for many corporate initiatives as well, which is one of the reasons I’m helping companies adopt Evaluate To Win (ETW) to measure the progress of adopting execution strategies. (It’s now called Execute To Win)

In his book The Most Powerful Idea in the World, William Rosen notes that harnessing steam power required many innovations, including the ability to measure the engines’ energy output of engines and a micrometer that could gauge tiny distances. With these tools, inventors could see if their incremental design changes led to the improvements, such as higher power and less coal consumption, needed to build better engines. Without feedback from precise measurement, Mr. Rosen writes, invention is “doomed to be rare and erratic.” With it, invention becomes “commonplace.”

Bill Gates observed that measurement is critical to improving the human condition: if you set a clear goal and find a measure that drives progress toward that goal in the form of a feedback loop, great progress is possible. Nevertheless, it’s often not done or not done correctly. For instance, foreign aid historically has been measured in terms of the total amount of money invested, but not by how well it performed in actually helping people. While the value of measuring teacher performance is widely recognized, “more than 90% of educators in the U.S. still get zero feedback on how to improveâ€. Mr. Gates concludes “that as budgets tighten for governments and foundations, we need to take the lesson of the steam engine to heart and adapt it to solving the world’s biggest problems.â€

Similarly, as companies reduce slack and focus on becoming lean, it becomes essential that they use effective evaluation tools and commit to using the data for continuous improvement. ETW is one such tool. (If you haven’t seen it yet, contact me for a demonstration – Which other ones are you using? Share with us your experiences