Seven Deadly Sins of Measurement Programs:  Sloth
Thomas M. Cagley Jr.

Sloth plagues many measurement programs as they age.  As time goes by, it is easy for practitioners to drift away from the passionate pursuit of data to transform 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 generate 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 synchronize 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). I would suggest that 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 creates 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 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. I would note that 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).  Whatever the reason for actively disengaging or losing interest, loosing passion for metrics will sap the vitality of your metrics 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, relevance and passion may not immunize your metrics program from failure but they will certainly stave off the deadly sin of sloth. If passion and relevance do not work consider a new position because in the long run not acting will cause a new position to consider you.