Recently my wife and I went out of town and left our four kids with a babysitter for the weekend. As an incentive to good behavior, my wife developed a little game where each kid could earn one or more marbles a day for good behavior, and could lose one or more marbles per day for bad behavior. At the end of the weekend, if they had 10 marbles (they started with five) they would get a prize.

Wwhen we returned on Monday from the long weekend, everyone had earned eight marbles, but not the ten that was the goal. No one had lost any marbles for bad behavior, but there hadn't been enough time to earn 10 marbles. My kids, of course, thought they were going to miss out on their prize. But my wife explained to them that the point was to have good behavior, not earn 10 marbles. Since they achieved what we sought, they got the prize they were promised.

Too often associations focus on metrics that aren't really meaningful. A great example of "counting the marbles" is page views on the web site. So many associations talk about how many times their website is viewed. But the real question is, what kind of change in behavior is occurring as result of those views? Are web visitors buying from you? Are they taking action with their congressman? Are they joining in the conversation in your association's discussion groups? Counting the marbles doesn't help us achieve our objective.

So ask yourself: Are you measuring the number of marbles, or are you measuring the behavior change?