Performance measurement, biscuits and a cunning sheep dog

I have always thought sheep dogs were intelligent. I didn’t realise, until recently, that they are smarter than me (well, at least one is). A while ago I was walking with a friend. Her sheep dog, a Border Collie called Harvey, was with us. After 10 miles or so Harvey seemed to be flagging. She stopped at a gate and refused to go any further. I decided to offer here a biscuit from my bag and that did the trick. At the next gate she seemed to be running out of steam again, so out came another biscuit. We didn’t even make it to the next gate before she stopped and refused to budge until being fed. I commented to Kate that Harvey seemed really tired. Kate looked at me with a “Are you stupid?” expression and said “No, Harvey has now trained you to give her a biscuit every time she stops!”.

It sounds obvious, looking back, but it links back to the old phrase “What gets rewarded gets done.”. Have you stopped to think what behaviours you are rewarding in your business through your performance measurement systems?


1 Comment

  1. Avatar Matt Jenkins on June 14, 2013 at 00:10

    I have a Retriever not a Collie but nevertheless also smarter than me. He too is called Harvey.
    Given the knowledge that stopping at a gate will secure a biscuit, he understands that I may be trained to offer further rewards, such as a chunk of cheese, if he warns me before we reach a gate.
    I can’t help but think how much smarter he would become should he realise a slice of beef, from the joint I put in the oven before we left for the walk, is on offer. Maybe he might lead me to a gap in the fence. It would be less of a risk as the gate may be locked or poorly maintained, thus improving his chances of actually getting the slice of beef. It would also be quicker, so the beef is less likely to be overdone and therefore more tasty.
    I’m now thinking of offering Harvey a glass of Bordeaux with his beef…..

Leave a Comment