Lies, damn lies, and KPIs: Let

Who, Me? Monday has come once again and with it the sweet and sweet music of a reader's darkest computer failures in Weekly record Who, Me?

Today's story comes from "Alban," who in the mid-1990s worked at a mobile phone company "in a country better known for its musical than technological skills."

"At that time," Alban explained, "the telecommunications company was partly owned by (or a partner of) Vodafone and was to report to England monthly some specific key performance indicators (KPIs) about its network."

This was information such as cell traffic, availability, etc. in. "I understand," said Alban, "that Vodafone was quite specific about how to calculate them," a fact that will become significant as sin continues.

"Some of these numbers were considered very relevant and discussed by the big fish in their monthly powwow to define problem areas and establish actions.

" They took this very seriously and even reviewed in the following month if those actions they were successful. "


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Oh yes, executives love their metrics.

Alban's task was to write the scripts that produced some of the numbers in which the chief of operations were most interested. A figure measured availability and expressed as a percentage: "Everyone was happy when he was above 95 percent. one hundred, below that threshold, people were punished for intensive management scrutiny. "

Alban's scripts had been happily king for a couple of years and no f It was until I was tracking an error in the report where a new KPI did not seem to match the previous one that made a horrible discovery.

Somewhere in his formula Alban had mixed a + and a -, which led to "a really bad effect of numerical cancellation and the value was basically a random number."

That "by chance and some additional errors occurred in most cases about 95 percent."

The result was that the big shots had spent the last year working on what Alban delicately described as "numbers totally alien to reality."

It worsened: "So, any problem they identified on the network was just random luck, and the value of the following month was random again. So, all the successful management problem resolution was nothing more than throwing the dice back on next month ".

And worse still: "In addition, real numbers were not as optimistic as random ones; they had a greater tendency to be between 90 and 95 percent."

Just to drop the metaphoric cherry on the fiasco: "Some managers, including the chief of operations, had part of their bonus linked to this indicator."

Pretending that nothing had happened was not an option, since that the newly created indicator did not match Alban's magic random KPI generator. Then he boldly confessed to the boss.

Undoubtedly in management bullcrap speaks of the era, the chief of operations had a 30,000-foot view of things and could see a problem that Alban had not detected. "Specifically, management just proudly informed Vodafone how successful the last quality initiative was. "

What to do?

Naturally, the boss had a solution.

He decided to delay Alban's solution to the KPI until "the boys in the mobile access network had a great update on their systems and blamed the less optimistic new numbers on them and their new software."

"As expected," Alban said sadly, "this did not improve my confidence in managers."

Have you ever protected your bond by pointing innocently to an innocent or gaping at the management pranks in the face of a new distressing reality? Send your confession by email to the vultures that occasionally sympathize with Who, Me? ®

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