3068483640_328b020efa_bGluttony is over-indulgence to the point of waste.  Gluttony brings to mind pictures of someone consuming food at a rate well beyond simple need.  In measurement, gluttony then can be exemplified by programs that collect data that has no near-term need or purpose.  When asked why the data was collected, the most common answer boils down to ‘we might need it someday…’

Why is the collection of data just in case, for future use or just because it can be done a problem?  The problems caused by measurement gluttony fall into two basic categories.  The first is that it wastes the effort of the measurement team, and second because it wastes credibility.

Wasting effort dilutes the measurement team’s resources that should be focused on collecting and analyzing data that can make a difference.  Unless the measurement program has unlimited resources, over collection can obscure important trends and events by reducing time for analysis and interpretation.  Any program that scrimps on analysis and interpretation is asking trouble, much as a person with clogged arteries.  Measures without analysis and interpretation are dangerous because people see what they like in the data due to clustering illusion (cognitive bias). Clustering illusion (or clustering bias) is the tendency to see patterns in clusters or streaks of in a smaller sample of data inside larger data sets. Once a pattern is seen it becomes difficult to stop people from believing that the does not exist.

The second problem of measurement gluttony occurs because it wastes the credibility of the measurement team.  Collecting data that is warehoused just in case it might be important causes those who provide the measures and metrics to wonder what is being done the data. Collecting data that you are not using will create an atmosphere of mystery and fear.  Add other typical organizational problems, such as not being transparent and open about communication of measurement results, and fear will turn into resistance.   A sure sign of problems is when you  begin hearing consistent questions about what you are doing, such as “just what is it that you do with this data?” All measures should have a feedback loop to those being measured so they understand what you are doing, how the data is being used and what the analysis means.  Telling people that you are not doing anything with the data doesn’t count as feedback. Simply put, don’t collect the data if you are not going to use it and make sure you are using the data you are collecting to make improvements!

A simple rule is to collect only the measurement data that you need and CAN use.  Make sure all stakeholders understand what you are going to do with the data.  If you feel that you are over-collecting, go on a quick data diet.  One strategy for cutting back is to begin in the areas you feel safest [SAFEST HOW?]. For example, start with a measure that you have not based a positive action on in the last 6 months. Gluttony in measurement gums up the works just like it does in a human body; the result of measurement gluttony slows down reactions and creates resistance, which can lead to a fatal event for your program.

 

Greed is taking all the food and not leaving some for everyone else.

Greed is taking all the food and not leaving some for everyone else.

Greed, in metrics programs, means allowing metrics to be used as a tool to game the system to gain more resources than one needs or deserves.  At that point measurement programs start down the path to abandonment. The literature shows that greed, like envy, is affected by a combination of personal and organizational attributes.   Whether the root of the problem is nature or nurture, organizational culture can make the incidence of greed worse and that is something we can do something about.

One of the critical cultural drivers that create a platform for greed is fear.  W. Edward Deming in his famous 14 Principles addressed fear: “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” Fear is its own disease, however combined with an extremely competitive culture that stresses win/lose transactions, it creates an atmosphere that causes greed to become an economically rational behavior.  Accumulating and hoarding resources reduces your internal competitors’ ability to compete and reduces the possibility of losing because of lack of resources.  Fear-driven greed creates its own insidious cycle of ever increasing fear as the person infected with greed fears that their resource horde is at risk and requires defense (attributed to Sun Tzu in the Art of War). An example of the negative behaviors caused by fear that I recently heard about was a company that had announced that they cull the lower ten percent of the organization annually at the beginning of last year.  Their thought was that completion would help them identify the best and the brightest.  In a recent management meeting the person telling the story indicated that the CIO had expressed exasperation with projects that hadn’t shared resources and that there were cases in which personnel managers had actively redirected resources to less critical projects.

Creating an atmosphere that fosters greed can generate a whole host of bad behaviors including:

  1. Disloyalty
  2. Betrayal
  3. Hoarding
  4. Cliques/silos
  5. Manipulation of authority

Coupling goals, objectives and bonuses to measures in your metrics program can induce greed and have a dramatic effect on many of the other Seven Deadly Sins. For example, programs that have wrestled with implementing a common measure of project size and focused on measuring effectiveness and efficiency will be able to highlight how resources are used.  Organizations that then set goals that based on comparing team effectiveness and efficiency will create an environment in which hoarding resources generate a higher economic burden on the hoarder, because it reduces the efficiency of other teams.  That potential places a burden on a measurement program to create an environment where greed is less likely to occur.

Measurement programs can help create an atmosphere that defuses greed by providing transparency and accountability for results. Alternately as we have seen in earlier parts of this essay, poor measurement programs can and do foster a wide range of poor behaviors.

14545519494_12ab1ba776_kSloth plagues many measurement programs as they age.  As time goes by, it is easy for practitioners to drift away from the passionate pursuit of transforming data into knowledge. Sloth in measurement programs is typically not caused by laziness. Leaders of measurement groups begin as true believers, full of energy. However over time, many programs fall prey to wandering relevance. When relevance is allowed to waiver it is very difficult to maintain the same level of energy as when the program was new and shiny. Relevance can slip away if measurement goals are not periodically challenged and validated. An overall reduction in energy can occur even when goals are synchronized, if there is a conflict on how the data will be used and analyzed between any of the stakeholder classes (measurement team, management or the measured). Your energy will wane if your work results in public floggings or fire drills (at the very least it will make you unpopular).

The drift into sloth may be a reflection of a metrics palette that is not relevant to the organization’s business, therefore not likely to produce revelations that create excitement and interest.  This can cause a cascade of further issues.  Few metrics programs begin life by selecting irrelevant metrics, except by mistake, however over time relevance can wander as goals and organizational needs change.  Without consistent review, relevance will wane and it will be easy for metrics personnel to lose interest and become indifferent and disengaged.

In order to avoid or reclaim your program from sloth due to drifting goals; synchronize measurement goals with the organization goals periodically.  I suggest mapping each measurement goal and measure to the organizations goals.  If a direct link can’t be traced, I suggest that you replace the measure.  Note: measurement goals should be reviewed and validated any time a significant management change occurs.

When usage is the culprit, your job is to counsel all stakeholders on proper usage. However, if management wants to use measurement as a stick, it is their prerogative. Your prerogative is to change fields or to act out and accept the consequences. If the usage is a driver for lack of energy, you probably failed much earlier in the measurement program and turning the ship will be very difficult. Remember that it pays to spend time counseling the organization about how to use measurement data from day one rather than getting trapped in a reactionary mode.

The same symptoms occur when management is either disinterested (not engaged and not disposed positively or negatively toward the topic) or has become uninterested (disengaged). The distinction between disinterested and uninterested is important because the solutions are different. Disinterest requires marketing to find a reason to care; to be connected.  A stakeholder that has become uninterested needs to be reconnected with by providing information so their decisions matter.  Whatever the reason for actively disengaging or losing interest, loosing passion for metrics will sap the vitality of your program and begin a death spiral.  Keep your metrics relevant and that relevance will provide protection against waning interest. Metrics professionals should ensure there is an explicit linkage between your metrics palate and the business goals of your organization.  Periodically audit your metrics program.  As part of the audit map the linkages between each metric and the organizations business goals.  Make sure you are passionate about what you do.  Sharing your passion of developing knowledge and illustrating truth will help generate a community of need and support.

Synchronizing goals, making metrics relevant and instilling passion may not immunize your metrics program from failure but they will certainly stave off the deadly sin of sloth. If you can’t generate passion or generate information and knowledge from the metrics program to generate relevance consider a new position, because in the long run not making the change isn’t really an option..

Wrath

Wrath

Wrath is the inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.  I suspect that you conjure a picture of someone striking out with potentially catastrophic results.  When applied to measurement, wrath is the use of data in a negative or self-destructive manner (rather than an act of wrathful measurement). Very few people are moved to measure by wrath, rather they are moved by wrath to use measurement badly. Wrath causes people to act in a manner that might not be in their or in the organization’s best interest. Both scenarios are bad.  Data and the information (good or bad) derived from that data can used as a weapon in a manner that destroys the credibility of the program and the measurement practitioners.  

Anger impairs one’s ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over their behavior. An angry person may lose his/her objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others. Actions driven by extreme anger is easily recognized by observers, but rarely by those perpetrating the behavior. This is an example of being blind with rage.  There is no room in the workplace for rage. Protect your measurement program and your career by staying in control. When confronted with scenarios that induce rage you need to learn how to step back and see the whole situation. Being mad or angry is fine if those emotions do not cloud your judgment. Teaching yourself to always see things more calmly will help your realize the truth of the harm that you are causing to yourself and others through rage. I once saw a CIO fly off the hook when are project shared it’s measurement dashboard, the project reporting that they were behind schedule, defects were above projections and the number of potential risks were rising. The uncontrolled rant was awe inspiring however the CIO lost the support of his senior leaders and within a month he was gone. Control puts you in a position to react in a more rational manner.

Measurement data and the information derived from that data deliver the ability to understand why things happen: why a project is late, why a project costs what it does or even why a specific level of quality was achieved.  Measurement is a tool to take action to improve how work is done.  What it should not be is a weapon of indiscriminate destruction. Acting in a rage changes all of that. When you strike out in an uncontrolled manner you have transformed that data into a weapon with very little guidance. Think of the difference between the indiscriminate nature of a land mine and the precision of phasers of the Star Ship Enterprise. Wrath turns a potentially valuable tool into something far less reliable. For example, a purposeful misrepresentation of the meaning of data can lead to team or organization making wrong decisions. Other examples include errors of omissions (leaving out salient facts) or inclusion (including irrelevant data that changes the conclusions drawn from the data).  Whether omission or inclusion, poor use of data erodes the value of the measurement program though politicization or placing doubt about the value of measurement into people’s minds. Remember that all analysis requires interpretation, however the interpretations are generally based on an assumption that people will act logically and consistently. That includes your behavior. Analysis based on an obviously false assumptions just to make a point does no one any good in the long run.  For example, assuming productivity is constant across all sized of projects so that you can show that a project under-performed to get back at someone will destroy your credibility even if you win the argument. Be true to the data or be the point of a failure in trust.  

Do not confuse passion and rage; they are not the same. You must have passion to be effective but what you can’t do, is to lose control of your emotions to the point that you stop thinking before you act. The deadly sin of wrath is a sin that reflection of bad behavior, if you let wrath affect your behavior you will begin a spiral that ends with a failure of trust.

Definition of done

Don’t trip the runner next to you just to win.

The results of software measurement can be held up as badge of honor. It is not uncommon for a CIO, department manager, project manager or even technical lead to hold up the performance on their projects in front others, engendering envy from other projects. Envy is a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another. Measurement is a spotlight that can focus other’s envy if the situation is right. That can occur when  bonuses are tied to measurement and when the assignment and staffing of projects is driven by unknown factors. There are two major types of metrics-based envy: one must be addressed at the personnel level and the second must be addressed organizationally.

Envy can be caused when the metrics of projects managed by others in your peer group (real or perceived) are held up as examples to be emulated.  The active component of envy at this level is triggered by a social comparison that threatens a person’s self image, and can be exacerbated when the attributes that impact performance are outside of the team’s control. The type or complexity of the work coming to a team is generally negotiable. Teams that get the really tough problem will generally not have the highest productivity even though they may solved an intractable business problem. Envy generated by this type of problem translates into a variety of harmful behaviors. In benign cases, we might just pass it off as office politics (which everybody loves, not), or in a worst case scenario could generate a self destructive spiral of negative behavior which is not helpful to anyone.  Typical envy-driven behaviors to watch for include the loss of will, poor communication, withdrawal and hiding.  While the amateur psychologist in me would be happy to pontificate on the personal side of envy, I am self aware enough to know that I shouldn’t.  If you have fallen into the trap of envy, get professional help. If you are a manager of a person that is falling into this hole, get them help or get them out of the organization.

The other category of triggers are organizational.  These are the triggers that as managers, we have more control over and have the obligation to address.  As leaders we have a chance to mold the organizational culture to be supportive of efficiency and effectiveness.  Cultures and environments can facilitate and foster both good and bad behaviors.  Cultures that support an atmosphere of individual competition above collaboration can create an atmosphere where envy will flourish. This will act as a feedback loop to further deepen silos and the possibility of envy. For example, Sid may feel that Joe always gets the best recruits and he is powerless to change the equation (for whatever reason), therefore he can’t compete.  Envy may cause him to focus on stealing Joe’s recruits rather than coaching his own. Thisculture can disrupt communication and collaboration and create silos. In this type of environment positive behaviors, such as displaying measurement data, can act as feedback loop to deepen the competitive culture rather than generating collaboration and communication.  Typical behaviors generated by envy triggered by organizational issues include those noted earlier and outright sabotage of projects and careers (tripping the runner next to you so you can win), and just as bad, the pursuit of individual goals at the expense of the overall business goals.

Measurement programs can take the lead in developing a culture where teams can perform, be recognized for that performance and then share the lessons that delivered that performance when it is truly special. An important way to understand what type of performance really should be held up and emulated is based on the work of W. Edward Deming. In Deming’s seminal work Out of the Crisis, he suggested that only variation caused by by special causes should be specifically reviewed rather than normal or common cause performance. Understanding and using the concepts of common and special cause of variation as tools in your analysis will help ground your message in a reality that focuses on where specific performance is different enough to be studied. Common cause variation is generated by outcomes that are within the capability of the system.  Whereas special cause outcomes represent performance outside the normal capacity of the system. In every case, performance outside of the norm, should be studied and where positive, held up for others to emulate. By focusing your spotlight on these outcomes you have the opportunity to identify new cutting edge ideas and ideas that should be avoided.  Another technique for fostering collaboration (an environment where envy is less likely to take root) is to invite all parties to participate in the analysis of measurement data using tools such as a WIKI. The measurement group should provide the first wave of analysis, then let the stakeholders participate in shaping the final analysis, using the crowd sourcing techniques made famous by Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia.  Getting everyone involved creates a learning environment that uses measurement not only as tool to generate information, but also as a tool to shape the environment and channel the corporate culture.

Measurement and measurement programs don’t cause the sin of envy.  People and organizational cultures foster this sin in equal measure. Done correctly, measurement programs can act as a tool to tame the excess that lead to this sin. However the corollary is also true.  Done incorrectly or poorly, measurement ceases to be a positive tool and becomes part of the problem.  Measurement that fosters transparency and collaboration will help an organization communicate, grow and improve.

Can't see forest for the trees

Can’t see forest for the trees

The first deadly sin is pride. In the cannon of deadly sins, pride is the sin from which all other spring. In the world of metrics programs, the sin of pride is when a metrics program settles on a single metric that is used to reflect the value or well-being of a project, a group or organization. Examples of abound of metrics programs that fixated on cost or productivity to the exclusion of a broader palette of metrics and work attributes.  Most metrics professionals quickly learn that one metric cannot be used for all projects.  If you can’t easily answer the question, “Does this relate?” each time you use a metric and for each metric you use, the information generated through measurement and analysis will provide little or no value.  The goal is to understand the differences between groups of work so that when comparisons are made, you can discern what is driving the difference (or even if there is a difference).  Comparing package implementations, hardware intensive projects or custom development is rational only if you understand that there will be differences and what those differences mean.   The bottom line is that rarely does a single metric deliver that deep level of understanding that generates value from measurement.

Another example of the single metric syndrome generated by the sin of pride occurs when an organization uses a single metric to value performance in a contractual arrangement.  While entire contracts are rarely stipulated on a single metric, it easy for a single metric to be given disproportional weight due to the framers’ lack of understanding or a disconnect between the framers and the people that administer the contract.  Poor understanding of the relationship between the numbers and the concepts they represent is akin to failure in punctuation when writing.  The resulting meaning can be garbled as the contract is negotiated, implemented and managed.  We won’t get into an existential argument over whether something is a sin if it is inadvertent; the result is the same. Garbled concepts can lead to a single metric focus which once discovered will beg to be taken advantage of.  This usually causes an overemphasis on a specific portion of the value chain, such as productivity being emphasized over time-to-market, quality or cost.

3216110254_15d4a00bf2_b

In Christianity, the seven deadly sins are the root of all other sins. This concept has been used as an analogy for the ills or risks for many professions.  The analogy fits as well for software metrics; focusing attention on the behaviors that could sap your program’s integrity, effectiveness and lifespan. Here we will look at the deadly sins from the point of view of a person or group that is creating or managing a metrics program. As with many things in life, forewarned is forearmed, and knowledge is a step towards avoidance.

Here are the seven deadly sins of metrics programs:

  • Pride – Believing that a single number/metric is more important than any other factor.
  • Envy – Instituting measures that facilitate the insatiable desire for another team’s people, tools or applications.
  • Wrath – Using measures to create friction between groups or teams.
  • Sloth – Unwillingness to act on or care about the measures you create.
  • Greed – Allowing metrics to be used as a tool to game the system for gain.
  • Gluttony – Application of an excess of metrics.
  • Lust – Pursuit of the number rather than the business goal.

All of the deadly sins have an impact on the value a metrics program can deliver.  Whether anyone sin is more detrimental than another is often a reflection of where a metrics program is in it’s life cycle. For instance, pride, the belief that one number is more important than all other factors, is more detrimental than sloth or a lack of motivation as a program begins whereas sloth becomes more of an issue as a program matures.  These are two very different issues with two very different impacts, however neither should be sneezed at if you value the long-term health of a metrics program. Pride can lead to overestimating your capabilities and sloth can lead to not using those you have in the end self-knowledge is the greatest antidote.

Over the next few days we will visit the seven deadly sins of metrics!

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