In a Matter of Moments

By John Blumberg, Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity (

I recently heard the story of a strategy meeting being held by a major corporation. The focus of the brainstorming session at-hand was: How do we become the best in the world? I’m sure this wasn’t the first time this topic had surfaced, in so many words, in strategy sessions across numerous corporations, healthcare organizations, educational institutions, consulting firms and such. It’s almost predictable. Yet what happened next was not. A participant in the session raised their hand and when called upon shifted the energy in the room with this alternative question: Instead of asking how we can become the best in the world, what if we changed the question?

How do we become the best for the world?

It’s amazing how changing one little word from “in” to “for” changes everything. No doubt, it was a moment that deeply inspired some while leaving others a bit uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable because they didn’t welcome the question, but uncomfortable knowing the metrics and measurements they face each day – most of which demand a best in the world mindset rather than inspiring being a best for the world mentality.

Today’s metrics and measurements are complex – and constant. They measure almost everything that can be measured whether they need to be measured or not. Management books of the late 20th Century boasted the claim that if it’s not measurable, then it’s not important. Organizations moved toward Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards that became the holy grail of performance. It might be argued that they brought a sophisticated focus and a heartless blindness.

Measurements and metrics can play a key role in being good stewards of the resources of an organization. Yet, like all good things, they can have their own shadow side even when executed with the best of intentions. In the leader version of Return On Integrity, I shared the challenges and risks that come when metrics and measurements are untethered from stated organizational values – or worse yet, have free reign when no values have ever been genuinely explored and discovered in the first place. I went on to say that metrics and measurements must be accountable to a set of meaningful core values. Not the other way around.

We continue to see the implosive impact of “the other way around” in yet another crisis in the financial industry. One can make excuses, blame external circumstances, point fingers outward while never owning the unintentional consequences imbedded in highly demanded metrics and measurements. Under the pressure of key performance indicators, good, smart, and highly skilled professionals have one thing in common:

They are vulnerable to drifting.

Something very valuable is taken away by the constant onslaught of metrics and measurements. Yes, sometimes it’s a job, a career or possibly an egoic reputation. Yet, I would propose that relentless metrics and measurements take something much more. Long before anything ever goes wrong, something is already wrong. Measurements have a way of robbing everyone’s experience of valuing the unmeasurable. They bankrupt the vision that gives one the ability to see, experience and embrace everyday moments that can make or break the very essence of and reason for the work we do.

Metrics and measurements have a way of sterilizing these moments.

In Return On Integrity, I asked the question: What if the most important things are not measurable at all? Unlike metrics, moments can’t be measured on a KPI dashboard. They are more than measurable. They are intuitively known in the moment. And, like metrics and measurements, they too can have a systemic impact.

And yes, when these moments are repetitively embraced, they make one’s life better. When done consistently, they make an organization better. And when done collectively, they could very well make an organization the best for the world. The hard part is that no one will ever be able to pin it down into words scripted and spun for a set of board minutes or an annual report. For these moments happen in ways that are ineffable.

Moments are realities that are ultimately revealed years later by what is memorable rather than what is measurable – at a time when KPI dashboards, and frankly those organizations who were best “in” the world, are irrelevant and long forgotten.

In a world that craves big platforms packed with those trying to be best “in” the world, it might beg the question for each of us individually – how can I be best “for” the world?

Some questions are not actually meant to be answered. The answers are meant to be discovered in living moment by moment by moment.

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts! We could all benefit, if you would be so kind to share your thoughts email me at!