Targets – We’ll hit them if you insist

The thing about staff is that they want to please you.  Yes, I suggest all of them, well at least they want to do everything they can to prevent you telling them they’re not performing well enough.

The reality is increased pressure to meet targets increases the ingenuity applied in response.  Or to look at it from the perspective of an economist, the relationship between ingenuity and pressure is elastic.

In other words people, even ‘honest’ people have a tendency to twist the story to hit the target. In short people will cheat (to a degree).  Parameters are bent to make sure goals are met. 

Take a certain parcel delivery organisation where the objective is (I assume) to deliver packages within a specified timescale and where a house is unoccupied leave a card advising of the attempted delivery.  The pressure to meet the objective creates a situation where the van driver rings the door bell and immediately puts a card through the letter box, driving away before the householder gets to the door.

The pressure to hit the target of delivering all the parcels on the van has motivated the driver to spend as little time as possible at each drop-off point. 

And the impact?

Firstly, the inconvenience to the addressee.  They have to either arrange re-delivery or go to the depot to collect the item.  In either event this has created extra work; the addressee may have phoned the depot, requiring someone there to answer it; finding the parcel at the depot and potentially redelivering it.

The key point here is that a target, probably imposed to increase the productivity of the delivery staff and reduce operating costs has caused inconvenience to the customer, and increased the service centre and delivery costs.

To find out more about the impact of rewards read this article from Freakonomics.

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