The 3491 foot tall Mt. Greylock is the highest elevation in Massachusetts, the centerpiece of a 20,000 acre state reserve and a rest point on the Appalachian Trail. That is where yours truly was “Ranger Danger” for the summer as the night patrol working solo. The job was simple enough, help anyone in trouble and keep the partying kids off the mountain. The problem was that these were all my friends and if I was not working the night shift, I might have been one of those kids.
The measure of my success was simple. If the park superintendent saw beer/bottles and/or felt warm ashes the next morning, then there must have been unauthorized activity on the mountain the night before. Bottom line, I was measured by beer cans & ashes. If you really think that through, there are lots of ways to have outstanding job performance in this system and still have the park full of undesirable activity at night. Lanterns and recycling come to mind. It was a great way to spend the summer and the park superintendent often congratulated me for outstanding performance.
As leaders, we need to be absolutely sure the metrics we put in place align with the real results we want. We need to think through the unintended consequences of the metrics to ensure we are not creating an environment or activity different than our desired end state. The up side of using beer cans & ashes was the simplicity of the metric and the ease of data collection. The down side was it did not meet the other metric objectives.
Have you seen a good metric gone bad?