Fear and Metrics

Yesterday I watched a virtual seminar put on by my favorite business author, Patrick Lencioni, related to his most recent book: The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.

I have not read the book yet—it is actually sitting in an UNOPENED amazon box at home (too many books!). But I liked what he had to say in the seminar. His points reminded me of how much of a manager’s job is simply making things better for your direct reports (in contrast to a popular myth, which is that the direct reports exist to make your job easier).

I will read the book and provide a review, but for now I will highlight one of his points. One of the
"three signs" is that employees have no way of actually knowing what kind of contribution they are making or if they are succeeding on a daily basis. This is not performance review stuff, this is the employees themselves being able to gauge progress. Lencioni argues that quantitative metrics rarely work for this—that it needs a more subjective measurement. This was my favorite quote:

People revert to metrics out of fear, not out of vision.



  1. 02.11.2007 at 5:27 pm

    Jamie, the quote may be applicable and appealing in the social sciences area, but don’t try in the hard engineering and sciences fields. Our motto is: “if it can’t be measured, it’s not real.”
    How’s that for cultural opposites?

  2. 05.11.2007 at 12:41 pm

    Ah, Virgil, I knew I would draw you out with this one! And I think you know that I understand your point entirely. For me it’s not a metric versus non-metric thing (i.e., metrics are just fine!). I just liked Lencioni’s point about fear. Even within your culture, can you discern a difference between metrics that are identified out of fear, versus metrics that come from vision? I think sometimes the fear is there, but not acknowledged. And I am definitely against running organizations based on fear.

  3. Lindy Dreyer
    08.11.2007 at 4:07 pm

    I like the idea of subjective metrics to help guide and encourage direct reports. The tricky parts are 1)building the feedback into your daily working relationships and 2)tailoring the feedback to maximize the contribution of each individual.