Against metrics


#1

I’m not much one for targets.


#2

Interesting article. I’ve actually a good (relevant) anecdote about the ‘gaming’ that management by metrics encourages.

At the art gallery where I worked on the ticket desk, when gift aid became a thing, one of our managers decided the best way to motivate the staff would be to send round emails to every one stating “YOU HAVE LOST £XXX FOR THE COMPANY”. They had looked at all the tickets sold by each member of the box office, which didn’t have a gift aid declaration taken and extrapolated from that the amount of money which could have ,in theory, been claimed back.

As you all know, because gift aid is voluntary, its perfectly possible for someone to refuse consent. It doesn’t really represent a failing of a member of staff and is more likely a reflection of the personal choice of the customer.

Needless to say good-will amongst the BO was very low after the emails. A portion of a ticket had to be a donation in order to make the gift aid ‘do-able’, so the majority of staff just stopped selling tickets with the donation added on.

No donation added on = gift aid no longer relevant = no longer loosing the company money according to the metric = no longer getting aggressive emails from that manager!


#3

I didn’t quite finish the sentence that I was trying to write earlier because Ada was bouncing on me.

“I’m not much one for targets.”

because one of my axioms is that I’m working as hard as I can: as hard as I can based on who I am and everything that’s going on in my life and the world and my mood and my energy levels and all the work that I have previously done. So if I set a target for myself to sell X new systems or to write Y new features, and I end up not hitting the target, the only thing that I have learned was that the target was wrong. The target I set was not achievable because it wasn’t achieved, and the only possible response is to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and say “Oh well, what I did instead of hitting this target was something that I considered more valuable at the time”, whether that was fixing a bug instead of making a sale, or even just spending 10 minutes looking out the window because I couldn’t concentrate and there was no point in trying to do anything else. In which case, why waste time setting the target at all?

Perhaps I might one day set you a target, Peter =) but in that case the expected result a month later would be a conversation about “what did you do instead of hitting the target?” and then I’d find out about all the things that it turned out were, on a day to day basis, more urgent or important than some target that I’d made up.


#4

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