A light take on management by metrics

As every self-respecting manager knows (I know because I’m UPPER management), you have to have metrics to measure your goals and assess your progress. You have to have metrics to measure your physical wellness, your productivity, your savings, your laundry habits — everything. Let’s say you’ve worn the same underwear for the last three months; a reasonable goal would be to wash it at least once a week.

All over the world, corporations and incompetent people alike pay thousands of dollars for coaches who tell them they need metrics. I was skeptical, so I did some research on these coaches. I discovered that the only experience they have is telling other people how to achieve their goals; the only goal they’ve ever achieved is getting a website; and the only metric they count is the number of fools who hire them.

I found my solution right here on my Outlook email program. I decided to use the Tasks Tab to record my goals and to color code them. After typing furiously for seven hours, I recorded 257 goals with all the colors of the rainbow:

Blue: Get rich.

Purple: Look like Hugh Jackman.

Green: Get hired as a coach.

I tried them for a week and it didn’t work, so I hired a coach. To protect my privacy, let’s call him “Coach Fernando Know-It-All de la Sabiola Jr.” At least he was a student. He was studying to become a chef and he had a really nice website. There were lots of pictures of him surrounded by beautiful women. The website also said that he belonged to the “Latin Kings,” which I’m sure was some kind of charitable organization. With such stellar credentials I hired him right away. He told me I had to be more specific, and more gradual. I revised:

Blue: Make $5,763,112 in seven years.

Purple: Get Hugh Jackman’s muscles.

Green: Get four people to visit my website.

He told me I needed to choose. Three goals are way too many. I chose the first two. He made me a plan to get Hugh Jackman’s muscles. He told me that if I ate meat three times a day, put on about another 100 pounds, lifted more weights, and went to Butts and Biceps on U.S. 1, the plastic surgeon might be able to extract some flesh from my big nose and implant them into my biceps.

What about my blue goal? He said that if I started saving, invested wisely, opened a clinic and defrauded Medicare, I would have a chance. “You are a doctor, aren’t you?” he said. I tried to explain that I was a Ph.D., not an M.D., but he wouldn’t listen.

The importance of metrics was driven home again when I watched 60 Minutes the next day. Turns out, true story, that a certain healthcare company, let’s call it “From Your Sickness to My Wealth Management Inc.,” set metrics for its emergency room physicians in hospitals around the country. At least 20 percent of patients seen in the emergency room had to be hospitalized to generate revenue for the hospital.

No matter what the patient had — bleeding nose, periorificial dermatitis, evil eye, flatulence — it was all the same, a metric is a metric. If the doctor needed to meet a quota, somebody was going to get the stretcher.

After a few days, Fernando left me. He had to flee the country suddenly. Too bad, I had grown fond of him.

Next I hired the former CEO of “From Your Sickness To My Wealth Management Inc.,” but he also had to flee the country. I was on my own again, so I went to his company’s website to learn as much as I could about management.

I learned that you have to plan your day, your week, your month, your year. They tell you to track everything, to color code your activities and to take note of any obstacles. They ask you to download tracking apps and keep meticulous records of your hourly achievements. When you get home, they ask you to log into a special website and check a bunch of little boxes to document your progress, minute by minute.

By the time you are done with all this, you have exactly three minutes left in the day to do any work, or admit 3,462 bogus cases into the hospital.

Isaac Prilleltensky, a community psychologist, is dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami.

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