Measurement Dysfunction

October 14 2018
By: Terry L. Mathis

    As safety executives and managers continue their search for leading indicators, they need to take into consideration ways measurements can become dysfunctional and avoid those. Here are some of the most common dysfunctional measurements we encounter in our consulting practice:
  1. Measuring the wrong things — Nothing wrong with experimenting with measurement, but if you don't find either correlation or causation, consider dropping the metric. Most of what we see is measuring safety activities (meeting attendance, audits and observations, etc.) which don't always contribute to accident reductions.
  2. Measuring too little — If the lagging indicators are your only safety metrics, you are not measuring any of the processes that produce those numbers. You need KPIs as well as results metrics.
  3. Measurement Dysfunction
  4. Measuring too much — The "more is better" mentality abounds in safety and that applies to metrics in some organizations. If metrics don't add to understanding or managing the process, consider stopping measuring them. They can cloud the issues that really matter and overload people with useless numbers.
  5. Cheating the metrics — Setting numeric goals and/or attaching rewards and incentives to metrics tempts people to cheat the metrics to get the prize. Measure to understand and then act on the understanding rather than doing immediate knee-jerk responses to your numbers.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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