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#WFH: Performance Measurement Comes in Phases

Performance measurement generally comes in phases. There is the initial phase where some-one decides something should be measured. Then someone figures out how to measure it. Next the data is collected, interpreted and reported. Finally, someone reacts to the data by making decisions. If there are issues anywhere along the line, it can cause serious problems.

Garth Brooks and the surge of country music is a perfect example. In 1991, the music industry was in transition. Rock had dominated the genre for decades. Then this good-looking country sing-er named Garth Brooks hit the charts with hit after hit. Music industry executives were sure that rock was on its way out and country was going to take over as number one. But there was a problem that was based on data collection from an industry that was structurally in flux. Music had always been sold in stores that were not computerized but computers were what served as the data collection source. That source was Walmart. Walmart had a system for recording and reordering sales called the Nielson Soundscan system. As soon as someone bought a CD at Walmart, the system placed a reorder. The data was skewed because country music fans bought their music at Walmart and rock fans primarily used he music stores so nothing about rock music got reported. Once record stores went online it was clear that rock was as popular as it ever was. In the meantime, decisions to let go of contracts with rock bands cost the industry dearly. It wasn’t long before we were looking at Napster and people were saying “Stores? What stores?”

The point is that kneejerk reactions to data are often ill-advised. There is a process and discipline to performance analysis whether on an organizational, department or individual level. It begins with knowing that we are properly interpreting the data. Next, we examine the root cause of the results we are getting. This root cause analysis would probably have revealed that while Garth was good the data was skewed because of Walmart and rock was still king. Finally, leadership needs an action plan that applies over time. Whether measuring performance of a company or an individual virtual worker, it isn’t one and done. Performance needs to be monitored over time.

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