I recently worked with a client that had a keen interest in quality. They were so interested in quality that they decided to put a quality measure on the (manual) admin process and get people to keep track of their own “right first time score”. Just to make sure that people took the measure seriously they made sure that people’s bonus was heavily influenced by hitting the target quality score.
What do you think happened? Funnily enough, almost everyone achieved the quality score required to get their bonus – but customer complaints increased.
It may seem obvious, looking at this example, that this is an invitation to creative dishonesty, but I don’t think I have been in a single organisation that has not driven self-defeating behaviours through inappropriate target setting.
A powerful way question to ask when you set a target is “How can I drive this measure to meet the target but still deliver the wrong outcome?”. Better still, engage those you are trying to mobilise with the target and get them to pose the same question. You could save yourself a lot of pain and embarrassment.