Targets appear in all shapes & sizes. Sometimes seen as positive, “we operate a target-driven culture” and sometimes negative, “targets drive the wrong behaviour”. So what is true? Given the sheer diversity of targets, I want to focus on a specific area, daily work targets in a services environment. Let’s look at a scenario.

Imagine an operator works in a services business. Work comes in three types and timing tests show each type can be completed within 20 minutes inmost cases. Now imagine the operator being given items of work and being asked to work under two different management controls:

  • Control 1, Work items are targetted to be completed within 22 minutes.
  • Control 2, There are no targets and work items must be completed regardless of the time required

Statistically speaking, an assessment of the two approaches could be made, something like:

Ho = There is no difference between the time taken to completework items under control 1 or control 2

I am looking at running some tests to see if there is a difference as this is related to a project I am working. But what is your gut feel on the expected performance difference?

I have tried this in a very small trial and found that when working under a time target, you focus on the time target. As the pressure builds on any individual work item because you are watching the clock you find it more difficult to focus on the task in hand and end up missing the target. You lose valuable time because of the target.

So what does this show? Does this describe an example of why targets drive the wrong behaviour? Does it show that getting it right first time saves money? Does this show operator’s pulling work? Does this show a difference between batch and continuous flow?

I’m not sure but I feel I am looking at something quite important here, just not sure exactly what it is yet……..

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