The #1 Cause Of Organizational Dysfunction

At some level, I see dysfunction in almost every client I work with. This isn't something new. There probably isn't an organization on the planet without some level of dysfunction. Perhaps a degree of dysfunction is acceptable or even desirable. But eventually organizational dysfunction reaches a point where it begins to impede the ability of the enterprise to function. One area where this appears to occur with great frequency is between IT and the rest of the business. In far too many organizations IT is seen as out of alignment with the business, or worse, as an impediment to business units. So why is this?

It's been my opinion for some time now that there is a root cause for almost all the dysfunction in organizations. The cause is metrics. Specifically, the metrics we use to measure employee performance. Sometimes we suffer from the unintended consequences of what appear to be sound metrics.

Take for example a conversation I recently had with a client in marketing with responsibility for e-commerce. He wanted to gain a better understanding of IT because it appeared to him they were making bad decisions. On investigation it turned out "IT" had taken the website offline in the middle of the fading day, much to the consternation of the e-commerce team. To understand why IT might do this you need to understand metrics. It turns out the help desk had received a call about a problem with SAP. In order to fix the problem with SAP, the database technician decided the fastest repair would require restarting SAP. Unfortunately the website was tied to SAP so when it went down, so too did the website. Had the help desk and the database engineer not been measured on how long it takes to repair a problem, they may have made a different decision.

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Want To Better Understand Data And Metrics? A Recommended Reading List

"Let's just say I'm not lost when it comes to data . . . but I could be more found . . ." – (eBusiness team member at a top 50 US bank)

Digital teams are surrounded by data and metrics — from KPIs to customer analytics. Yet I often hear from clients who wish they were just a little more comfortable knowing what the data is really saying, or which metrics are most important.

We just published a brand new report on The Mobile Banking Metrics That Matter which outlines how mobile strategists at banks can put the right metrics in place and work with their analytics teams to get data outputs that guide them toward smart business decisions.

Writing this report got me thinking about which books, blogs, and articles I’ve found most useful when it comes to really getting data and metrics. Here are five I think might help you too:

  1. The Tiger That Isn’t. Probably my personal favorite book about stats and measurement. Written for a mainstream audience, the book works as a guide to thinking through what a given stat or data point really means — and when to trust or doubt such data. It’s also a great read, full of interesting nuggets and statistical oddities (like how the vast majority of people have an above-average number of legs). The book’s thesis is that people who consume data should be skeptical but not cynical about statistics. From there, it helps the reader more easily contemplate and act on the data and metrics they encounter.    
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