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 generate envy if the environment and people involved combine to create the perfect storm.  Two major factors develop envy in metrics programs; one is a defect of person and the second a defect of the organization.

Envy can be caused personal problems usually caused by low self esteem.  The active component of envy is triggered by a social comparison that threatens a person’s self image. This 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 and 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 completion above collaboration can create an atmosphere where envy can 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.

Another organizational climate that fosters envious feelings are those where a climate of extreme competition has developed between individuals and teams.  This type of culture can disrupt communication and collaboration and foster 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.  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 norm. In every case, performance outside of the norm, should be studied. 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 and peer pressure moderates behavior that could stray outside the norm. Use 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.
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