Sunday, November 30, 2014

Random thoughts: Key performance indicators

Was overwhelmed with work the last week. Finally get some time off to blog in holiday inn at Sydney. Phew...

My last 2 weeks was plenty of report writing, review of targets and KPIs, setting of new ones, if necessary.

The last 2 weeks of the years are always the low point of my work. Because I seriously think it's a very unproductive way to deploy the most precious resources of manpower and time.

Any value of the appraisal framework are all gone in the wind when managers scrutinized every single word to "score point". I have been through that, I have learned the language of report writing. I also know it's 江湖 arh, my boss themselves have KPI and record to uphold. 

But while I always think the framework for   Institution appraisal and self-assessment in my industry to be robust and useful, they (those that introduce this system) forgotten that theory always manifest itself in hundred and one form when applied. 

What has caused a wonderful tool for self-assessment to become a total waste of 2 weeks efforts doing paper war gaming with all the management hurdle up together, when so much more can be acheived if these capable managers are fan out to "walk the talk" and create value that directly impact out most important clients.

What makes the best intention for progress degenerated into a senseless rat race. 

So, with intelligence (the robust system) we need wisdom, (way it is implemented with humans, who are the the most diverse creature on earth), for a system to run properly.

What ills?

1) human's denial or fear to be at the bottom. Say whatever you want, say it's just for the sake of progress, say it's just a report of what's is done and a process of validation. When you score low compared to others, or when you score lower compared to the past, there is plenty of "stupid pressure" to improve.

2) benchmarks become model answers, just like when I give sample answers to my pupils, 90% of them will write something similar. Because KPI are supposed to be SMART, every organizations set SMART KPI without realizing how silly the whole game is. Hmm... We cannot set a target lower than last year? What nonsense is this? I told my boss, KPI should be scientific. YZJ KPI is to emerge from downturn 1 year earlier than the industry, Warren wanted iirc 5 year CAGR compared with some benchmark like S&P. No business man in the right mind will set 10% growth in top line and bottom line every year. Why not take the "industry average, or competitor average" whichever is closer to our own "results" and add 2% more. Wouldn't that make more sense? How about keeping a target even if it is exceeded, until it is consecutively exceeded for three years?

We cannot set a target by working backwards and using hindsight knowledge, target is forward looking. My boss knows what I am talking about, she just says let's make use of the info we have since we are reviewing a lot of new things this year. The unspoken words that is loud and clear to me: I know what you are saying, but no one do such things in the appraisal, so let's not risk it. Sigh... 

3) The ill of documentation. Not that it is not important, but my colleagues were sharing with me what they have done, I told them it is rather impressive work, I said:" you didn't know the art of reporting but when the "evidence finding" phase come in, you have nothing to worry about" and I offer to help her with her report writing, which I think she appreciate. But being a big picture guy, after I did those projects that I thought were useful, I need to spend a least a few more days after I return from my family holidays to add this column to my table, and that table to my plan to make it lOok proper. Sianz!! I know the private sector take documentation super seriously, especially the banking and finance sector, but I always thought my sector is unique and is beyond these. (oK, sour grape here) 

I believe I  am better than some of my colleagues in my workplace in this paper war gaming. But the actual fighting in the battlefield, I am Not so sure because it is a new battlefield for me, and I rather spend more time hitting the ground.

Not sure why my tone of writing sound so much like grumbling as I write. Anyway, enjoy the year-end people, it's thanksgiving season.

So much to worry, so much imperfections, so much 无奈,but in the end so much is also nothing and nothing is abundance.



  1. Totally agreed. Not a really useful activity.

  2. I see the ever famous bell-curve thingy floating in the mind of the the managers during this period...

  3. Sillyinvestor,

    I remember my time as a "at the factory floor" breed of purchaser (as opposed to those purchasers that only sit in the office), I used to poke fun at our KPI - minus 5% price reduction each year for the next 5 years .

    We laughed that one day we will source everything practically for free! LOL!

    It's simply a number taken out of thin air ;)

    Of course we hit our purchasing KPI!

    We smart; supplier not stupid.

    Soon after, we got another KPI to hit - minimise the quality claims from our stores :(

    It's similar to the experience at SMRT.

    Hit EPS goals? Don't spend on maintenance lor!

    Silo mentality versus holistic overview ;)

    1. SMOL,

      Not that bad till it clmpromised on quality of core business.

      But highly unproductive and non- valuing adding if u ask me

  4. Thankfully I'm don't have these nonsense things to do, it won't have irked me tremendously, or more likely, I'll become jaded and bo chup. My target for next yr is going to be the same as last yr, because last yr was such a great yr for me, it'll be good enough to stay at that level. Imagine if every yr I've to add 10% growth, I would have worked myself to death or apathy, whichever comes first.

  5. LP,

    Like what SMOL, 江湖! I just try to make it enjoyable ... I am good at self deluding ... The day I finished the report, I was like yeah! I won!

    My poor boss was still vetting the report and messaging me for clarifications on a Sunday midnight. When I replied, she answered immediately.

    I asked about her progress. She has 50% more to go. She also poor thing la

  6. Richard and David,

    I am
    Glad it over in 2 weeks. If it takes longer like my previous work place, it really is energy sapping