Tag Archives: Organization

Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

BOOK REVIEW

The Tyranny of Metrics, Author: Jerry Z Muller.

By Jerry Z Muller – More and more companies, government agencies, educational institutions and philanthropic organisations are today in the grip of a new phenomenon. I’ve termed it ‘metric fixation’.

The key components of metric fixation are the belief that it is possible – and desirable – to replace professional judgment (acquired through personal experience and talent) with numerical indicators of comparative performance based upon standardized data (metrics); and that the best way to motivate people within these organizations is by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance.

The rewards can be monetary, in the form of pay for performance, say, or reputational, in the form of college rankings, hospital ratings, surgical report cards and so on. But the most dramatic negative effect of metric fixation is its propensity to incentivize gaming: that is, encouraging professionals to maximize the metrics in ways that are at odds with the larger purpose of the organization. more>

How nations come together

By Andreas Wimmer – Why do some countries fall apart, often along their ethnic fault lines, while others have held together over decades and centuries, despite governing a diverse population as well?

Why is it, in other words, that nation-building succeeded in some places while it failed in others?

The current tragedy in Syria illustrates the possibly murderous consequences of failed nation-building.

Some old countries (such as Belgium) haven’t come together as a nation, while other more recently founded states (such as India) have done so.

There are two sides to the nation-building coin: the extension of political alliances across the terrain of a country, and the identification with and loyalty to the institutions of the state, independent of who currently governs. The former is the political-integration aspect, the latter the political-identity aspect of nation-building.

To foster both, political ties between citizens and the state should reach across ethnic divides.

A comparison between Switzerland and Belgium, two countries of similar size, with a similar linguistic composition of the population, and comparable levels of economic development, provides an example.

In Switzerland, civil society organizations – such as shooting clubs, reading circles and choral societies – developed throughout the territory during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century. They spread evenly throughout the country because modern industries emerged across all the major regions, and because Switzerland’s city-states lacked both the capacity and the motivation to suppress them.

In Belgium, by contrast, Napoleon, as well as the Dutch king who succeeded him, recognized the revolutionary potential of such voluntary associations, and suppressed them. more>

How to get more people to support, approve, and act on your ideas.

By Ron Bates – Regardless of your role—from building stakeholder relationships to securing a desired agreement or commitment—we all need to be able to get others to support, approve, or act—based on our ideas.

So how do you get more people to support, approve, and act on your ideas?

It starts with understanding the perception gap you’re trying to close. The only reason someone is going to support, approve, or act on your idea is that they perceive it in a favorable light. What changes someone’s perception? They learn something new.

How often do we consider the other person’s perception and perspective when we attempt to communicate our ideas, insights, or observations? How often do we anticipate the conversation, questions, and objections? Do we practice articulating our message—prior to any conversation?

Are we trying to change someone’s perspective by enrolling them through the questions we ask—or—are we in pure output mode? Are we assuming anything? Have we thought about what the other person’s perspective needs to be to for them to act in our favor? Do we understand the gap we’re trying to close? more>

Trump’s Assault on American Governance Just Crossed a Threshold

By John Cassidy – Since Donald Trump entered the White House, American democracy has sometimes been described as dangerously fragile, but that isn’t necessarily true. Having survived for two hundred and forty-two years, American democracy is more like a stoutly built ocean liner, with a maniac at the helm who seems intent on capsizing it. Every so often, he takes a violent tug at the tiller, causing the vessel to list alarmingly. So far, some members of the ship’s crew—judges, public servants, and the odd elected official—have managed to rush in, jag the tiller back, and keep the ship afloat. But, as the captain’s behavior grows more erratic, the danger facing the ship and its passengers increases.

All that concerns him is discrediting the Russia investigation and saving his own skin. To this end, he will do practically anything he can get away with. And, judging by the deathly silence from the Republican leadership over the past couple of days, he won’t receive any resistance from that quarter. To repeat, the danger is increasing. more>

It’s Time to Protect Identity Like We Protect Critical Infrastructure

By Andre Durand – With the past year’s record-breaking wave of breaches, it is now safe to believe that most Americans have had their personal identity information exposed—and analysis of the Hudson Bay breach has confirmed this knowledge is now being traded in dark markets.

The long-term ramifications are going to have an impact on every public and private sector organization that utilizes our identity to conduct business and to provide access to critical systems, which will create disruption in our day-to-day activities and even to our way of life.

Because business and government institutions that handle personal information are vital to our society, it’s time to designate “identity” as a new segment in the nation’s critical infrastructure, a set of 16 sectors the Homeland Security Department deems essential to the nation’s well-being.

The entire identity chain must be strengthened to prevent these criminal activities. Birth certificates, which can be used to open bank accounts, are still administered by hospitals that are ill-equipped to manage security. Our government devotes huge resources to ensuring that currency can’t be counterfeited, yet it pays scant attention to documents that can be used to obtain multiple forms of ID. Every physical document we use to prove our identity should be made far harder to duplicate.

We can then move onto our digital systems. more>

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Human Factors Research Helps Accelerate Mission Planning
By John Toon – The key to a successful flight mission is planning – sometimes several hours of it. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) specialists in human factors and human computer interfaces are working with NAVAIR PMA-281, Strike Planning and Execution Systems in Patuxent River, Maryland, to streamline the current mission planning process and identify user interface requirements supporting multi-domain mission management in next-generation naval planning capabilities.

With guidance from the GTRI researchers, the project will improve usability of the mission planning software tools, creating a more consistent and intuitive screen design that’s easier to learn and more logical to follow. This effort could benefit all Department of Defense (DoD) agencies for collaborative mission planning.

“We are working with Navy and Marine Corps aviators to identify areas in mission planning where work-flow can be streamlined, reducing the time required to mission plan,” said Marcia Crosland, project director for GTRI’s Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS) User Interface Design and Usability efforts. “Our task has been to define the user interface concepts and decision-making tools to help reduce the time required for mission planning. We’ve created detailed designs and specifications to direct current and future development of mission planning systems.” more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Why policy makers should nudge more
By Alex Verkhivker – When policy makers around the world want to influence their constituents’ behavior, they have a few options. They can offer a carrot, such as a tax incentive, stipend, or other reward. They can use the legislative stick by passing a mandate or a ban.

But research suggests they should turn more often to a third tool, a “nudge,” which in many cases is the most cost-effective option.

Nudging is the word used in behavioral science for structuring policies and programs in ways that encourage, but don’t compel, particular choices. For instance, requiring people to opt out of rather than into a program, such as a retirement savings plan, might nudge them toward participating. So might reducing the paperwork necessary to enroll. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Automotive manufacturing and autonomous vehicles
By Dave Lauzun – Automotive manufacturing has been happening for a long time, but when most people think of automotive manufacturing, they imagine a moving assembly line. The moving assembly line revolutionized how vehicle manufacturers produce cars, but it wasn’t always the go-to process.

As vehicles were first beginning to be built at the turn of twentieth century, vehicle manufacturers typically built the whole car at once. It was a time-consuming, costly process that kept cars out of most consumers’ hands.

In 1913, over at Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford wanted to cut down on the time and cost associated with building the Model T. He needed to find an efficient way to build this car, and he came up with idea of being able to “productionize” the Model T through a moving assembly line. In this assembly line, the Model T production was broken down into 84 steps, and employees were trained to do just one step.

The results of this change were enormous for Ford Motor Company. The automaker drastically reduced the time it took to build the Model T from 12 hours to 90 minutes. The cost savings in manpower and time to produce the vehicle on the assembly line also meant the company could drop the price of the Model T from $850 to $300.

How will automakers turn their focus away from research and development and toward the mass production of autonomous vehicles? And, how can that mass production be economically viable for their business and for their customers? more>

From a nation at risk to a democracy at risk: Educating students for democratic renewal

BOOK REVIEW

How Democracies Die, Authors: Madeleine Albright, Ronald Inglehart, Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

By Fernando Reimers – Public schools were invented to prepare people for self-governance, and to work with others towards the improvement of their communities and for the betterment of society. These were the arguments Horace Mann used, in the 1830s, when he led a successful advocacy campaign to launch public education in Massachusetts. Since then, schools in America have in many ways provided students the capacities necessary to engage civically, to collaborate with others, across lines of difference, in making society better.

As American democracy has evolved, so have the ways in which schools embrace their civic mission. For much of their history, our public schools did not hold women and men to similar expectations, nor did they adequately educate African Americans and other ethnic minorities. It was only when social movements, such as the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, broadened our collective understanding of who should be included in the opportunity to participate in this democratic experiment of self-rule, that schools, in turn, broadened their focus to prepare women and minorities for civic engagement and leadership.

The global democratic setback is the most severe since the end of World War II.

It is time to replace the powerful compact and narrative that A Nation At Risk provided to guide our schools three decades ago, with a more capacious vision for how our schools can help our students stand up for a democracy that is very much at risk. more>

How To Stop Trump

By Robert Reich – Why did working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president?

One explanation focuses on economic hardship. The working class fell for Trump’s economic populism. A competing explanation – which got a boost this week from a study published by the National Academy of Sciences – dismisses economic hardship, and blames it on whites’ fear of losing status to blacks and immigrants. They were attracted to Trump’s form of identity politics – bigotry.

If Democrats accept the bigotry explanation, they may be more inclined to foster their own identity politics of women, blacks, and Latinos. And they’ll be less inclined to come up with credible solutions to widening inequality and growing economic insecurity.

Yet the truth isn’t found in one explanation or the other. It’s in the interplay between the two. more>