GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski
We get what we measure and, generally, we measure what’s easy to measure and not what will build a bridge to the right behavior.
Timeframe. If we measure people on a daily pitch, we get behavior that is maximized over eight hours. If a job will take nine hours, it won’t get done because the output metrics would suffer. It’s like a hundred-meter sprint race where the stopwatch measures output at one hundred meters. The sprinter spends all her energy sprinting one hundred meters and then collapses. There’s no credit for running further than one hundred meters, so they don’t. Have you ever seen a hundred-meter race where someone ran two hundred meters?
Do you want to sprint one hundred meters five days a week? If so, I hope you only need to run five hundred meters. Do you want to run twenty-five miles per week? If so, you should slow down and run five miles per day for five days. You can check in every day to see if the team needs help and measure their miles on Friday afternoon. And if you want the team to run six miles a day, well, you probably have to allocate some time during the week so they can get stronger, improve their running stride, and do preventative maintenance on their sneakers. For several weeks prior to running six miles a day, you’ve got to restrict their running to four miles a day so they have time to train. In that way, your measurement timeframe is months, not days.
Over what timeframe do you measure your people? And, how do you feel about that?
Control Volume. If you have a fish tank, that’s the control volume (CV) for the fish. If you have two fish tanks, you two control volumes – control volume 1 (CV1) and control volume 2 (CV2). With two control volumes, you can optimize each control volume independently. If tank 1 holds red fish and tank 2 holds blue fish, based on the number of fish in the tanks, you put the right amount of fish food in tank 1 for the red fish and the right amount in tank 2 for the blue fish. The red fish of CV1 live their lives and make baby fish using the food you put in CV1. And to measure their progress, you count the number of red fish in CV1 (tank 1). And it’s the same for the blue fish in CV2.
With the two CVs, you can dial in the recipe to grow the most red fish and dial in a different recipe to grow blue fish. But what if you don’t have enough food for both tanks? If you give more food to the blue fish and starve the red fish, the red fish will get angry and make fewer baby fish. And they will be envious of the blue fish. And, likely, the blue fish will gloat. When CV1 gets fewer resources than CV2, the fish notice.
But what if you want to make purple fish? That would require red fish to jump into the blue tank and even more food to shift from CV1 to CV2. Now the red fish in CV1 are really pissed. And though the red fish moved to tank 2 do their best to make purple guppies with the blue fish, neither color know how to make purple fish. They were never given the tools, time, and training to do this new work. And instead of making purple guppies, usually, they eat each other.
We measure our teams over short timeframes and then we’re dissatisfied when they can’t run marathons. It’s time to look inside and decide what you want. Do you want short-term performance or long-term performance? And, no, you can’t have both from the same team.
And we measure our teams on the output of their control volumes and yet ask them to cooperate and coordinate across teams. That doesn’t work because any effort spent to help another control volume comes at the expense of your own. And the fish know this. And we don’t give them the tools, time, and training to work across control volumes. And the fish know this, too.
Image credit: Unsplash
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