A Measure or a Target

15 Mar 2022

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”  Goodhart’s Law.


This is a classic economist’s view. Think about it. If you want a widget factory to make more widgets, it can do so by making very many small widgets. If you want 100% quality, you’ll get three perfect widgets.

There is a time at work I always dread – one of many times! The annual staff survey. Not so much the survey itself but the wait for the number crunching exercise which follows to be over and the results to be published.


It is at this point that the world goes bonkers.


For some reason only known to senior managers (or in this case idiots), there has to be an improvement every year.


An improvement in what, you may ask, and you would be not alone in doing so. I do every year. The staff survey is intended to show how people feel about the organization in a non-objective way. How are we doing about bullying, for example, or caring for our teams. All nice, soft, fluffy stuff. It is impossible to get this down to a number.


But we do. Every year. And that number has to go up every year. (I suspect the CEO’s bonus is tied to this which is enough to slant my view already.) If it doesn’t, then there are learned and serious questions answered about the composition of the team, what we can and should do about such things and how we can increase the ‘engagement’ of the team and make it a more cuddly place to work.


The questions that are asked and the answers that they are trying to get were laudable and honest at the start. It’s not the case now. I’ve queried an aspect of bullying (how adverse comments are dealt with in meetings) and promptly been shouted down with some vigour. This (a) proved my point rather nicely and (b) showed the futility of trying to challenge bullying behaviour.


Numbers are nasty things. They wriggle and squirm and dance away from where you want them (the words of a former accountant). They challenge and cause joy or agony in equal measure.


Moodscope gives a daily number. I know with some of my buddies what is the ideal. I know if they are distant from that score I should check in with them. All I want Moodscope to do is (and for Moodscope to be effective it must) tell me how someone is. There is no daily improvement, it is a daily state of mind check.


It’s a measure, not (and please never) a target.



A Moodscope member.

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