Ceasar Salad and the danger of metrics…

I stopped in at a local grocery store on the weekend to pick up some Dijon mustard for my home-made Caesar Salad and I discovered what I thought was a prime example of bad management practices. Right behind the check out counter was a board that listed the company principles and one large chart for everyone to see – ‘Items per Minute’. I though the principles were OK for the most part. The issue I had was with the one chart that defined success for management.

It seems that management have somewhat distilled all the performance of the employees into that one metric. I asked the woman who was assisting me about the chart and how it made her feel. She was very honest that she did not like the chart at all. She then went on to describe how the chart actually changed her behaviour. She admitted that she sometimes would not give the best service because she knew it would affect her rating. She admitted she became less engaging with clients and helpful with their questions because she knew they would reduce her numbers. Her main focus just became moving the maximum number of items through. Even if it meant bad service to clients.


The moral of the story is to be very careful about the metrics you choose and measure as they will define your team’s behaviour. I’m sure the management didn’t intend for the graph to have these unintended consequences,  but that is the danger of one metric being so visible.


My Caesar Salad turned out excellent and I got a blog topic to boot. I have a great recipe to make a Caesar Salad from scratch with home-made croutons. Maybe I will have to create a blog entry with that recipe one day. 

It also made me realize how lucky we are in our Agile industry and how much we value and respect people. Sometime we forget that not all industries share our management thoughts. Quite a shame.

Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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