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When reward is tied to measured performance, metric fixation invites just this sort of gaming. But metric fixation also leads to a variety of more subtle unintended negative consequences. These include goal displacement, which comes in many varieties: when performance is judged by a few measures, and the stakes are high (keeping one’s job, getting a pay rise or raising the stock price at the time that stock options are vested), people focus on satisfying those measures – often at the expense of other, more important organisational goals that are not measured.
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More and more companies, government agencies, educational institutions and philanthropic organisations are today in the grip of a new phenomenon: metric fixation. The key components of metric fixation are the belief that it is possible – and desirable – to replace professional judgment (acquired ...
Contrary to common sense belief, attempts to measure productivity through performance metrics discourage initiative, innovation and risk-taking.
The source of the trouble is that when people are judged by performance metrics they are incentivised to do what the metrics measure, and what th...
The rewards can be monetary, in the form of pay for performance, say, or reputational, in the form of college rankings, hospital ratings, surgical report cards and so on. But the most dramatic negative effect of metric fixation is its propensity to incentivise gaming: that is, encouragin...
Compelling people in an organisation to focus their efforts on a narrow range of measurable features degrades the experience of work. Subject to performance metrics, people are forced to focus on limited goals, imposed by others who might not understand the work that they do.
Large-scale organisations of our society are the poorer for driving out staff most likely to innovate and initiate. The more that work becomes a matter of filling in the boxes by which performance is to be measured and rewarded, the more it will repel those who think outside the box.
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