In my role of IT consultant, employee, small business owner, and parent I have come to really appreciate, understand, and live the article that was written over a decade ago by John R. Hauser and Gerald M. Katz entitled “Metrics: You Are What You Measure!”
Companies, clients, and colleagues have often asked “Bill, why are we unable to change?” or they’ve implied it when they said “that’s just the way we are, so get used to it.”
You’d be surprised how often I engage with companies that express a desire to change, but they don’t change how they measure the success of their people or projects. Organizations fail to tie the behavior being exhibited by their people or projects to how they are being evaluated or rewarded.
In one example, I worked for a company who predominantly measured the success of their consultants by how billable each consultant was. While this seems to be a reasonable measure when taken in isolation, it may not have the results they were intending.
This company had a consultant, let’s call her Karen, who was always very billable, but when you looked at the history of Karen’s projects she had a tendency to always be the last person engaged with the client. Through some discussions with other consultants, and anecdotal information, we found that Karen had a tendency to “poison the well” and compete against the other consultants from her own company to assure that she was the client’s “top dog.”
So was bill-ability a good metric? No, good metrics should promote a win/win scenario and as Hauser and Katz’s stated, “good metrics empower the organization.” I’ll even take this one step further which is good metrics empower the organization and the employee. This company’s metric was unknowingly empowering the consultant at the cost of the organization and the client.
A better measure in this situation would have been to not only consider bill-ability, but also the ability to grow the client and create a demand for more services beyond just Karen.
In closing, what I learned in the process was this company expressed a desire but didn’t change anything. To para-phrase Michael Anthony, a noted sport psychologist, he said, “Desire to accomplish something without a plan to do it is just a wish.”
I wonder how many employees and companies are wishing things would change without creating a plan to put desire into action?