As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan noted in Cosmos:

If we lived on a planet where nothing ever changed, there would be little to do. There would be nothing to figure out. There would be no impetus for science. And if we lived in an unpredictable world, where things changed in random or very complex ways, we would not be able to figure things out. Again, there would be no such thing as science. But we live in an in-between universe, where things change, but according to patterns, rules, or, as we call them, laws of nature ...

I find this quote one of the most inspiring motivations for measuring organisational performance. If the world were completely predictable, organisations would be like perfect machines: every outcome would be produced precisely as intended. Control would be at 100 per cent. At this extreme there is no use for measuring performance, because performance is always perfect, with no variation. But our world isn't like that. And that's why performance targets of perfection — such as ‘zero injuries' or ‘100 per cent on-time performance' — feel too confronting for people to commit to, no matter how idealistic or ‘right' they might seem. Our organisations are not deterministic machines.

Conversely, if the world were completely unpredictable, with no order at all, organisations wouldn't exist: the concept of organising would be impossible. Control would be at 0 per cent. At this extreme there would be no use in measuring ...

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