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The Craziness Of The Metrics System

I was reading this article in the New York Times around Metrics and the increased role it appears to be playing in our daily lives.

Did you know that there’s a site to quantify your sexual performance? bedposted.com. And so on.

The article raises a few fundamental questions.

The first is whether the rise of Metrics means the death of Instinct. Or death of ‘feeling’. Will we no longer do things because we feel like as there is no data to support. I feel like a pizza this evening. Will there be a dashboard that maps calories, enjoyment, cost and create an index that recommends what I do? Will your affection for someone be measured by a weighted index of calls, gifts, holidays, flowers etc? And will this lead to frequent reviews based on the performance of the index?

The second question the article raises is whether organisation, or even government, action gets directed more towards actions that can be measured. Will investment decisions be governed by what data can be found to support it? In my industry ie advertising, we see this sort of ‘errant’ behaviour in the mad chase for awards. The only way to judge the creativity of an agency seems to be number of awards won. And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, the chase for awards sometimes puts the agency in conflict with its raison d’etre.

Good article, the one in NYT.

I just started reading the book The Diamond Cutter where the author in the introduction talks about how he took on a role in the company and his negotiation with the owners/managers was that he would deliver the numbers but he should be given a free hand on staffing, salaries etc. Many companies today operate with different versions of the same process. ie we care only about the numbers. Not how you get it. This is obviously flawed as there is no way of replicating success nor identifying faults when things go wrong.

A balanced scorecard is important to understand not just the end result but how the result was obtained.

I don’t have a recommendation on this but the insanity of ‘let’s put a score’ against everything should be tempered with ‘do we need to measure it’ and ‘is that the right thing to measure’. The responses will vary on a case by case basis and that is where human intervention and thought come into play. Else computers that can measure far better than us could run the world. If not already!

Want to end with this rather sad story of a teacher in the UK. I heard this from a teacher friend so it is true! Apparently in the UK they recently decided to score the teachers. So this teacher who was rated as one of the top teachers in the school and a student favourite was one of those that got scored too. Now apparently, her style, was to start her class with some sort of dramatic opening. Quite like what they tell you at presentation skills workshops. However, the person doing the scoring had in her chart that ‘Teachers must start with a greeting before they do any thing else’.  Hence the teacher got scored down and instead of excellent, she got a good. Frustrated with this, the teacher quit her job, to the great loss of the school and the students.

So measure what is relevant. Marry it with the results. Use your own judgement.

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