KPI’s Gone Bad – Measures & Metrics Drive Wrong Behaviors

May 30, 2012

Recently while working with a team to create a Value Stream Map (VSM) of their IT Service Desk Area it was pointed out by one of the ”Users” that IT will request the User to issue a new ticket so they can close out the current one. Why would the Help Desk ask you to close out a service request even if the support was not done completely or to your satisfaction?

A quick and easy answer is because they have to meet their “numbers”. Many IT Help Desks measure their performance in relation to Service Level Agreements (SLA). Sometimes manager’s bonuses are directly tied into meeting or exceeding the SLAs. So there’s the rub. The managers push the technicians to close out service requests as quickly as possible so that they met the SLA for time to respond and time to resolve. In order to do this, the ticket needs to be closed out before the SLA time. So if the support is not complete, just close the ticket, receive your reward for getting it done on-time and open a new ticket later. Problem solved.

Just to prove that I am not just picking on IT, we see this all over the place where ‘hitting the numbers’ is more important that doing the right thing. Here are some real-world examples I have run across:

  • The car dealer that prompts you to give all 10’s on the survey after your car repair. They are gaming the system. If they always get 10s they must be perfect with no room for improvement?
  • A hospital that had their staff wear pins that said “Ask me about 10”. This was so that they would prompt the patient to give them a 10 on their satisfaction surveys. Of course, management would say that it was to make sure that the staff had every opportunity to interact with the patient so that they could give attention to any area that was less than a 10. But, we know better.
  • The Call Center that measures how long a customer service rep (CSR) stays on a call. In order to process as many calls as possible, management forces the CSR to quickly get off the call even if the customer has not been fully taken care of.
  • I’ve seen manufacturer’s that measure Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) manipulate the numbers just so they look good. They don’t want to see reality of what’s happening in their plant. They even do things like overproduce just to increase their OEE.

What are these organizations thinking? Let’s get back to the basics of providing value to the customer. We want to have measures of success, but let’s not drive wrong behaviors. If it doesn’t seem right for the customer, then it probably isn’t right.

Let’s start to measure what’s important and what will help us improve.



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One Response to “KPI’s Gone Bad – Measures & Metrics Drive Wrong Behaviors”

  1. I think most service or knowledge based production organizations that rely on some KPI to improve “productivity” have this kinds of disfuntions… Eli Goldratt used to say “Tell me how you measure me and I will tell you how I will behave”. The Goal is a nice book http://www.amazon.com/The-Goal-Process-Ongoing-Improvement/dp/0884270610

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