Dr. Deming

Dr. Deming

The Seven Deadly Sins of metrics programs are:

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

In the end, these sins are a reflection of the organization’s culture. Bad metrics can generate bad behavior and reinforce an organizational culture issues. Adopting good measures is a step in the right direction however culture can’t be changed by good metrics alone. Shifting the focus on an organizations business goals, fostering transparency to reduce gaming and then using measures as tools rather than weapons can support changing the culture. Measurement can generate behavior that leads towards a healthier environment.  As leaders, measurement and process improvement professionals, we should push to shape their environment so that everyone can work effectively for the company.

The Shewhart PDCA Cycle (or Deming Wheel), set outs of model where measurement becomes a means to an end rather than an end in their own right. The Deming wheel popularized the Plan, Do Check, Act (PDCA) cycle which is focused on delivering business value. Using the PDCA cycle, organizational changes are first planned, executed, checked by measurement and then refined based on a positive feedback model. In his book The New Economics Deming wrote “Reward for good performance may be the same as reward to the weather man for a pleasant day.” Organizations that fall prey to the Seven Deadly Sins of metrics programs are apt to incent the wrong behavior.

(Thank you Dr. Deming).

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.

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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!

Wrath, also known as anger or “rage”, is the inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.  I suspect that you conjure a picture of someone striking out in an uncontrolled manner with potentially catastrophic results.  When viewed through the lens of measurement, wrath reflects use of measurement data in a negative or self-destructive manner rather then 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.  How are issues of wrath reflected in behavior? Wrath can cause situational blindness in which the best course of action is not recognized or taken. Secondly, 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.  Protect your measurement program and your career by staying in control. When confronted with scenarios that induce severe anger you need to learn how to step back and see the whole situation. Teaching yourself to always see things as they really are will help your realize instantly the truth of the harm that you are causing to yourself and others through anger and rage.  One way to address rage is through meditation techniques, such as Vipassana, which is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It teaches you to see things as they really are and to liberate oneself from this mad habit of reacting with anger. No one said that measurement could not be mystical. 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. The problems occur when knowledge is used incorrectly or unethically. For example, a purposeful misrepresentation of the meaning of data. 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 into people’s minds. Remember that all analysis requires interpretation, however the interpretations are generally based on a theory of consistent behavior.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, whether is your behavior or whether you are a tool for another, if you let wrath affect your behavior you will begin a spiral that ends with a failure of trust.