Measure Perceptions – If corporate results disappoint

Its nearly Labour Day. My wife would tell me iIt’s nearly Christmas (though if I were to measure perceptions of others, many would disagree!).  But many companies have but a few months to their year-end. It’s really too late to rectify the 2013 performance. 2014 though is another matter.

Harold Geneen, late of ITT said it well:

“You read a book from beginning to end. You run a business the opposite way. You start with the end, and then you do everything you must to reach it.”

So what do you do when your carefully thought out strategy, or your elegant operational plan are just not delivering the results you expected (or worse not delivering the results that you promised your bank, board or stakeholders!)

Certainly one place to start is with your assumptions behind the plan, but another start point and one that is far too often ignored is to determine how far your employees or functional managers share your perception of the company and its objectives. You need to measure perceptions.


We all know the quotation that “Perception is Reality” (though I had to remind myself that it was Lee Atwater who said it first).

Anyway I digress, if an employee or a function or a level of management perceive that your company is, for example, risk averse; then that is their reality it doesn’t matter whether it’s objectively true; it remains a perceived “fact”. To follow that example through, it might then very well be that your staff are

spending far too much time preparing reports to justify future actions or defend past ones. That’s time they’re spending NOT driving your business results. Unless you measure perceptions in your company, there is no way you will get to the root causes of your results.

So when results don’t meet your expectations, certainly look at the assumptions behind your original plan, but also look at the perceptions within your own business of your business. In the best of businesses, these perceptions can pretty much match an objective reality. When there is dissonance in the perceptions of field staff or office based staff; or between junior management and senior management, then you have the beginnings of a muddle, which might turn into an issue that detracts from achieving your objectives.

So my advice is to look at and measure perceptions within your company, recognize that not everyone shares the same perspective. When there are major perceptual differences, face up to them and get everyone pointing in the same direction, even if they are still not quite marching in step.

If you don’t measure perceptions, you really will never find out what the real reasons are for those disappointing results.


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