When Performance Metrics Meet Jewish Guilt

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Question: Are performance metrics just nuts, or has it always been this way? I’ve never missed a deadline but strangely enough, that is not one of the things that gets measured.

Answer:
Performance metrics are for investors, to show what a great job the company is doing at cutting costs while increasing productivity. Metrics are ultimately designed to contain risk: for example, to keep people from getting too many salary raises, or to demonstrate a “commitment to quality”.

My first experience with performance metrics was in the dark ages of 1996 or so. My company had developed a ground-breaking new enterprise product and was quickly transforming from a collegial smart-boy consulting group into a software powerhouse. Within a single year, I had built up an entire training department with no prior experience, writing and delivering courses to consultants and partners worldwide.

And then it came time for my review.

One of the managers showed me a skills matrix that had rows, columns, and boxes. There were columns for 5 major skill areas, and rows with descriptions of increasing levels of mastery. Somehow, they’d managed to write this thing – I was the only trainer in the company – so that I fell EXACTLY IN THE MIDDLE on everything and thus qualified for an “average” raise.

There was nothing I could do about it, but that’s why people have to change companies to really boost their pay.

I’ve also seen “metrics” used by outside consultants to diss rival companies. I was doing training on this enterprise product, and there was a very large consulting group (VLCG) also present to aid in the implementation. VLCG’s chief asset was their ability to generate billable hours. They sat there during the training, creating elaborate flowcharts and course surveys – for MY performance – and only one of them (a junior consultant who obviously didn’t know the ropes yet) actually helped out with the training in any useful way.

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