Strathern’s Law states that “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
Seth Godin put it in terms that E&C professionals can appreciate: “As soon as we try to manipulate behaviors to alter a measure, it’s no longer useful.”
Just think of Wells Fargo’s “Eight is Great!”. Need I say more?
If you use metrics at work (and you do), ask yourself why they are in place:
- Are you trying to identify pain points, and allocate resources to alleviate the pain? Or,
- Are you trying to change behavior?
If the sole (or primary) purpose of your metric is to encourage or discourage a particular behavior, you may be headed for trouble.