Measure Twice, Cut Once

The Perils of Performance Metrics

Metrics, K.P.I.’s, measuring — are some buzzwords that fill some people with dread.

Why could we want metrics?

  • To identify trends in measurable things a team does
  • To find where problems are
  • Create targets to increase performance
  • To justify the performance of the team to ‘someone’
  • To compare teams

Good plans for metrics

  • Measuring definable things — i.e. website uptime
  • Using metrics to see how users are interacting with your website, and then interpreting them to make improvements
  • A team choosing it’s own metrics (which they set and only they can see)

Where metrics can go wrong

  • “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”
  • Rewarding a certain behaviour measured by a metric — you can be assured that this will be what the team will focus on
  • Making people question whether to do the right thing - as it might reflect badly in a metric
  • Work like building a piece of web site functionality is hard to reflect in a metric — i.e. what size / value do we attribute to each piece of work
  • Metrics lack the nuance of a deep understanding of what’s actually happening in a team and why they might be struggling or seem to be struggling

Alternatives

  • Talk to the team. Work with them. Get an understanding of how they work and what their problems are — and look to help
  • If a metric must be used, it is for the team to choose and know — not to be imposed upon them and potentially used against them.