I recently met the owner of a local business. While sharing about his company, he told me that they now have 50 employees. The same figure came up in casual conversation later that week with one of his employees.
It amused me that both men shared this seemingly arbitrary figure. (A company likely would do better to measure growth based on revenue, or club members, or subscriptions, just to mention a few.)
Several business experts, including Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) and Jack Stack (author of The Great Game of Business), emphasize the value of what Stack calls a “critical number,” a metric that represents the success or failure of an entire organization.
The value of such a number, one that unifies the effort of the team in a single direction, is obvious. And it’s interesting to observe that humans are programmed to pick such a metric, whether on purpose or not, and use it as their measure of progress.
With that in mind, one may be well advised to think that “critical number” through, and make it official, before a figure like “employee count” (and a bloated payroll) takes over as the key measure of success.