Evans Incorporated

Metrics: Be careful what you wish for!

Author: Tip Fallon | Business Analyst

While metrics are integral to improving organizational performance, implementing metrics requires careful thought and planning to ensure that they do not result in undesirable behaviors.  A few examples, and two solutions are below.

Metrics and Undesired Behaviors

Intention → Increase workplace safety 
Metric (and goal) → Number of days without accidents
Undesired behavior / impact → Employees don’t report accidents 


Intention → Increase customer service 
Metric → Number of calls answered by help desk representative 
Undesired behavior → Help desk representative cuts calls short to answer more calls and customers are dissatisfied 


Intention → Improve team productivity  
Metric → Number of X activity performed (e.g., writing a report)  
Undesired behavior → employees focus on maximizing the activity and neglect to consider how the team or organization can be innovative to provide more value or do so more efficiently 

Both desirable and undesirable behaviors can be found behind virtually any metric that is put in place and rewarded.  Usually a metric creates a tradeoff between three variable: Quality, Speed, and Cost.  

Two solutions

1)      Develop secondary or supporting metrics that focus on the other three variables.
These are also called, “Keep us honest” metrics.
For example, if we’re trying to increase number of customer calls answered, is there a supporting metric that ensures the customers’ problem is solved on the first call?

2)      Communicate the intent.
Don’t just start counting the number of reports your employee creates in a month.  Communicate that the intent is to provide more valuable information to the client.  Only when an employee understands the intent can he/she think about more innovative and effective ways to accomplish the goal.

For more information, see these articles: “On the Folly of Rewarding A while hoping for B” and “Metrics: You are what you measure!  




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *