As in Physics, “Not Everything That Can Be Counted Counts”
We live in a world that measures everything. A world that tells us that metrics are important. However, we often fall on the trap of measuring and reporting on things that are either not useful or not used by anybody.
Metrics Offer Transparency But Transparency Does Not Necessarily Drive Accountability
The Metric Fixation
This metric fixation is now part of who we are and is everywhere. We are beginning to collect data on everything and believe that numbers are better than experience or judgment. We are being told that all this data when analyzed by computers (e.g., neural networks, learning systems, artificial intelligence) is going to save us from having to think anymore.
If unchecked, an organization will continue to spend more and more resources and time measuring increasingly useless things without a clear aim or understanding of why. This leads to more data scientists, number crunchers, and spreadsheet gurus producing things that nobody reads.
Obviously, the problem is not with measuring things but rather knowing what to measure and why.
Here are the top 7 most common issues that we see with our clients when trying to measure useful things:
We naturally tend to measure what is easily measurable (profits, revenue) instead of longer-term variables like commitment, motivation, or innovation.
When trying to measure complex things like commitment, we tend to oversimplify by focusing on a few easy measures like personnel turnover or sick days by employee.
3. Inputs Focus
We tend to measure inputs rather than outputs because it is easier. Measuring how much is spent in advertising is easier than measuring the actual return on that investment.
4. Target Fixation
By defining and relying on best practices or target levels (e.g., 80% fault free manufacturing), we eliminate the need to really understand what the metric is really telling us – i.e., still 2,000 faulty products are manufactured.
If we know what is being measured, how is being measured, how is being reported, and how the results are being used, people will always try to game the system — omitting data, lowering targets, adding data or simply cheating.
6. Judgment Elimination
Often, once metrics are embedded in an organization, thinking stops. Blindly replacing judgment and experience with metrics is never a good idea. Metrics should inform judgment, not replace it.
7. Blind Spots
We are moving into a world that believes that everything can be measured. We need to remember that many things cannot be measured and are just as important as those than can – e.g., trust.
CommandHound is a software platform for business designed from the ground up to drive accountability in the workplace. Its basic premise is to track completion performance at the individual and team levels to be able to feed this information into the appropriate performance review or incentive processes.
When implementing CommandHound, our clients struggle with what to measure (e.g., tasks vs. milestones) and how to use what is being measured without forgetting or trampling on judgment and experience.
CommandHound’s Intelligence modules are used to make sure what is being measured is driving the right culture (intangibles) and the right behaviors (tangible).
We often engage with our clients in the early stages of implementation to help them through this process and to define things like levels of detail, importance, relevancy, feedback, response, compensation, incentives, feedback.
Also, we convey the message that transparency for transparency sake does not necessarily drive accountability. It helps but it is not magic. And, basing performance reviews or incentives on measured performance does not necessarily drive performance if not done right.
Would you like to learn more about how CommandHound can help you measure the right things to drive accountability in the workplace?