The Psychology of Performance
(These aren't the droids you're looking for)
Daragh O Brien
Early in my career I was a team leader in a call centre where the teams were incentivised based on targets like the number of calls made, the length of call (i.e., shorter = better), and the number of sales logged. Unfortunately, the quality of outcomes that resulted from those metrics was not necessarily what management expected (and I'll share a story about that later). Other measures existed in the Call Centres of the company I worked with at the time, some of them ostensibly "data quality" measures. These too failed to reveal the desired results.
As this article's sub-title (which you may recognize as the original Jedi Mind Trick that Obi-wan Kenobi used in Star Wars) suggests, many organizations, like the call centre I worked for, find themselves implementing KPIs and performance management programmes only to find that the results they achieve are not the results they were looking for.
Finding the droids (i.e., the key measures that will serve as compass needles to the 'True North' goals of your organisation's strategy) is the key challenge when you are trying to define a performance management framework to support change. Deming was very blunt and direct in his attitude to performance measurement. He admonished management to eliminate numerical goals (Deming's Point 11) . Peter Drucker, on the other hand, had the mantra that "Only what is measured gets done." By now, the careful reader will be wondering — are these two visionaries contradicting each other? Let's dig a bit deeper into the psychology of performance; in the process we'll learn some valuable lessons which show that Deming and Drucker are actually aligned.