“What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.” John E. Jones.
And so we are nearing the point in an organisation where information is flying left, right and centre. Whether it relates to progress, efficiency, growth, or stability, the numbers are going to reinforce that objective. The wrong measurements will create unwanted behaviours. (See previous posts relating to how important selecting numbers are; the danger will end with great numbers cultivating bad practice.)
In a recent article covering a UK government programme a new controversy has appeared. With the environment being a regular concern in the public eye, an incentive was created to reduce tax on plugin hybrid car sales. Who isn’t up for a bit of tax reduction? If I needed to have a car, this is always a consideration worth entertaining. The punchline is that these cars aren’t being plugged in. The reported range of these cars of ~130MPG is being undermined by lazy folk, achieving ~40MPG; something that is less than most modern gas-guzzlers.
Is calling them lazy a fair description? Yes.
They have already received the benefit. The individual benefit of tax reduction is failing to achieve what was intended by the government, because the purchase has already served its purpose. The ongoing change in usage, compared with the traditional car, provides no perceivable benefit to the user.
Incentives don’t always drive the expected change in behaviour.
It’s very easy to encourage people to do one thing, especially if there is a quick and easy reward. Long-term change is much more difficult to cultivate, especially if the benefit is less tangible. The tax break that was put forward is still a singular and self-focused “reward”. The requirement to purchase a new car, whether hybrid or not, does not change. If you can meet the requirement, while benefiting through something like a tax break, then it makes no sense to purchase anything other than a plugin hybrid.
Introducing an inconvenience, like having to plug your car in though, is, apparently, a step too far.
Extrapolate this into business, and you can start to see why people are very slow to adopt new ways of working. People don’t like change. But let’s take that one step further. A new way of working is one thing, but trying to simply alter bad behaviour is usually how people start as they don’t want to bite off more than they can chew. (See upcoming post: Changing platform doesn’t change your people.)
Unfortunately for this example, the desire to change jumped too quickly to instant reward for a new single action, rather than long-term change.
The UK government tried to ‘technically’ improve something with incentives, but old habits die hard. It’s actually about incremental incentives.
If these car owners could see, not just the monthly or annual impact of a tax break, but an ongoing trend of savings through charging their vehicles, improving MPG and decreasing the frequency of tank fills, the programme may end up being more successful.
Jones’ premise is simple and profound. I have seen measurement through my career. I can’t seem to put the subject down. But to see each part play out (measure/share/reward), without connection to the other parts, shows how important it is to think holistically, long-term, and with a true objective in mind. My experience in service operations shows it is no good having monthly meetings about ongoing projects or operational issues and looking to improve them. You need something more granular and tangible.
I don’t usually do product placement, but this is where the ServiceNow platform capability, Performance Analytics, really comes into its own. By snapshotting data on an ever more frequent basis (daily, rather than monthly) you get to see actual ongoing impact of behaviour, and you start to see active impact to behaviour modification. This more frequent, and even real-time, feedback is incredibly helpful in fast paced operations.
What do your operational dashboards look like? Are they encouraging the behaviour you want to cultivate?
Measure the right thing.
Show people what you’re measuring.
Reward people when that measurement is what you’re after (publicly if appropriate).