Behavior Trumps Outcomes!

A <a href=”” blog post over at i2i-align /a> scrateches an old itch.

If we care about results, why not measure by those results?

One answer is that if people have some control over the final numbers, and those numbers are important, they will find ways to hit them, even if it undermines your best intent. Dan Ariely’s narrative about teachers manipulating scores, or worse reminds me of Robert Austin’s warnings about measurement dysfunction. There is also a significant element of Dan Pink’s emphasis on mastery and autonomy, where outcomes based incentives were counter productive to actual production.

For a non-trivial task that requires even rudimentary cognitive skill, creativity, and choice, focus on the process at least as much as the outcome. A good outcome requires a good process. Focus on the process and if it doesn’t give you the results you want, improve that process.

Outcomes can be off for a variety of reasons. But behaviors will get you the outcomes you want more often than not.

About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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