Metrics can be deceptive

passenger in busIt is important not to confuse the notion of management with metrics.

Metrics are important – when they add to our understanding.

However, frequently they substitute for understanding.

Creating our own RELEVANT metrics is time consuming, so there is a natural human tendency to seek short-cuts.  For example when benchmarking first came to our attention it was through a thorough examination of the company’s own processes and comparison with those of its chosen exemplar.  It took a lot of time, but was very successful. Others wanted the success but were not prepared to put in the time and effort understanding either their own processes or those of the intended benchmark.  So they skipped the understanding and analysis stage and went straight to collecting metrics. A lot of time was wasted and bad judgement calls made in the 1990s and 2000s because of this.   Using figures from other times, places and cultures without understanding is as foolish as it sounds, but is still being done.

The ‘life’ of assets is an important factor in many decisions, from costing, to planning, to intervention.   But few ‘lives’ are calculated based on the type of asset involved and conditions of its use.  Some years ago, a Transport Company assumed that the life of its buses was 12 years. No-one actually knew where the figure came from but they swore by it. When challenged, it turned out that the figure had come from a statement – made some 15 years earlier – by the Chief Engineer at the time who had said: “We don’t know how long a bus should last but it certainly shouldn’t be more than 12 years.”  This was a statement based on his best professional judgement at the time.  But 15 years had passed.  When a proper analysis was conducted the figure turned out to be 16+ years. So the outcome of accepting, uncritically, the earlier metric, had caused early disposal and a 25% loss in bus value.

Question:  What has been your experience with metrics?

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