Measurement: Execution is insured through measuring the right things, aligning each part to the whole, and establishing controls and reporting systems

The Heisenberg Principle: A Powerful Measurement Principle

A “principle” is a fundamental law or truth that serves as the foundation for a system of belief, behavior or chain of reasoning. Principles are essential to comprehension, understanding, and effective decision making.

The Heisenberg Principle

The purpose and practice of measurement can also be better grasped when rooted in a principle. One such principle is commonly referred to as the Principle of Uncertainty, or the Heisenberg Effect. In 1927 German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, discovered the Principle of Uncertainty and in 1932 was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for the creation of quantum mechanics.

Heisenberg discovered the impossibility of simultaneously measuring the location and speed of an atomic particle. This was due to the fact that to measure any system is to disrupt it. Similar to sticking a fork in a moving garbage disposal, each time Heisenberg attempted to determine the position and velocity of an atomic particle, he discovered it influenced the particles thereby providing an inaccurate measurement.

Subsequently, Heisenberg’s Principle was applied to not just the impact of physical measurement but also the psychological impact of measurement, particularly on evaluation systems and how they influence performance.

 The Impact of Measurement

The Heisenberg Principle illustrates that measurement systems exert a psychological influence that affects people’s behavior. That is because whenever we measure something it communicates it is important. Let’s look at some examples.

Each time you walk through an airport screening device you are measured, or “Heisenberged,” and it changes your behavior. You remove all metal items, empty your pockets, and remove your laptop. Why? Because you don’t want to subject yourself to delays and body searches if you set off the alarm. In this case measurement is designed to be a deterrent.

When a church staff member receives a monthly year to date report on the line items of their budget, it is designed to influence them to stay within their agreed upon budget.

Knowing there will be an annual audit of the church’s finances keeps a Financial Staff more careful, honest, and more likely to follow established accounting procedures.

Requiring church staff to regularly report on goals and submit to an annual review tends to influence what they do and how they do it because their work is being tracked.

Developing surveys and processes for periodically measuring and evaluating people’s spiritual growth influences their level of commitment to spiritual disciplines and practices.

Regularly reporting to the congregation the status of capital campaigns, budgets and special offerings influences both the amount and frequency of donations.

Measure the Right Things

The practice of measurement is behind the maxim, “you get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Church leaders must keep in mind that measurement systems should be used to only measure the activities and results of the mission critical objectives of the church or ministry. Measuring low priority items can make them appear more important than they really are.

So, to insure that high priority initiatives are accomplished, systems and processes should be put into place to measure, or “Heisenberg” their performance and results.


Posted on October 3, 2017

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5