I have already written last year about the seminal phrase of Lou Gerstner cited in the title of this post, about the negative side of addiction to metrics as behavior controllers. Today I found a blog posting by one of my IBM research colleagues, Matthias Kaiserwerth, the director of the Zurich Research Lab, entitled: Big data analytics - why delayed flight makes for more satisfied customers. In this posting Matthias quotes a talk by Andy Neely that indicates some of the phenomena associated with metrics.
One example is that when a measure in a call center is to resolve a client's issue within 2 minutes, the agent starts to close the call after 1:45 minutes, regardless if the client' issue is resolved, since the agent is measured on length of the call and not on results. Actually I saw such cases in which some administrators who are measured on time of handling requests preferred to find some reason to close the request and not handle it since the time exceeded their metrics.
Another example that landed its name to the cited posting
One of the major metrics for airlines is "friendly staff", using analytics techniques the results show that their is a positive correlation between flights being delayed and the friendliness of the staff, since the staff is very nice in trying to calm down angry passengers that become nervous about missing flights (and sometimes promise things that their colleagues in the destinations don't really accomplish), taking this ad absurdum - the flight company should deliberately delay flight to enable the staff to maximize their friendliness metrics.
Neely has his own version of Gerstner's phrase: doing the right things rather then doing things right.
As I noted in my original post -- the metrics oriented culture is in many cases damaging and we should go back to the basics --- understand what are the right things.
More - later