Re: Metrics

Subject: Re: Metrics
From: "Robert Plamondon" <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2003 13:33:52 -0700

Generally speaking, a metric can either be useful in guiding the work,
useful in making management go away and pick on somebody else, or both.

Metrics useful in the work are sometimes useful for odd reasons. For
example, when my dad was running a drafting department in the aerospace
industry, he was sick and tired of the draftsmen trying to cram ten pounds
of drawing into a five-pound bag. Or maybe I should say putting an E-size
drawing on C-size paper. They didn't like wasting paper, but were
indifferent to wasting time. Often when a change order came in, there was no
room on the sheet for the new material, and the entire sheet would have to
be redrawn. Obviously, if you use a sheet larger than the original design
requires, you have some white space that can accommodate elaborations down
the road.

So dad instituted a bonus program that rewarded people on the basis of
"square feet per man-day." Obviously, you can double your square feet per
man-day just by using a piece of vellum that's twice as big as you normally

The only thing that's unusual about this story is that dad really WANTED
them to use bigger paper, and had no illusions that the metric was
meaningful except as a guide to how completely he had broken their habit of
using tiny sheets.

I suspect, though, that he neglected to explain his reasoning to upper
management! An instant doubling of apparent productivity is not something
you can achieve every day.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon
President, High-Tech Technical Writing
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com
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