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Evaluating Through Metrics

Posted by on February 8th, 2013 with 0 Comments

This week, we’ve looked at evaluating through Intuition, Deliberation, and Rubrics. Why?Because evaluation is a part of our lives: we all evaluatewe are all being evaluated, and we all invite evaluation.

The final type of evaluation is overused when it’s easy, and underused when it’s difficult. It’s called ‘Metrics’.

Metric evaluation is the quantitative assessment of criteria or output.
Common metric phrases include:

  • “He sold 15 paintings this year”.
  • “Her milestone deviation was less than 2% last year”.
  • “Great presentation! We sold fifteen books”.
  • “Britney is clearly better Dylan. She’s sold more records”.

Metrics have a number of positive and negative attributes.

Pros: They are easy when the data is available. They are clear. They are transparent. They reward results. They don’t require judges.

Cons: They don’t necessarily reward behavior. The require ‘good’ data. They paint an incomplete picture. They don’t predict future results. They can drive superstitious behavior – repeating your behavior because you believe that the behavior caused the result.

Data is extremely valuable when it’s available, you need to track change over time, and you want to reduce or eliminate judgement.

Some public examples of ‘Metrics Evaluation’ being used include:

  • Sports Statistics: Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football work because both baseball and football are ‘counting’ sports. Major League Baseball statistics provide a good example. Pete Rose is known as the ‘Hit King’ because he has 4,256 hits, the most in Major League History.
  • Gross National Product: Nations evaluate their success by this number.
  • Forbes Wealthiest Man: A simple financial measure that ignores Thoreau’s claim that “a man’s wealth is measured by what he can live without”.
  • Fortune 500: The Fortune 500 is a simple ranking o companies by revenue.
  • Stock prices: Nothing but numbers, baby… just don’t ask what kind of evaluation drives those numbers (mostly intuition).

The strength (and weakness) of metrics is that they remove excuses.As Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells was fond of saying, “You are what your record says you are”. In other words, Britney is great if her numbers are great.

Evaluation without metrics is insubstantial and unsatisfying, which is why they should be in your evaluation toolkit.

SMART as Hell Exercise:

  1. List the evaluations you made yesterday.
  2. How many of those evaluations would be classified as ‘metrics’ (quantitative assessment of output)?
  3. How many of those evaluations have data available?
  4. Is there risk that your evaluation is not ‘robust’ enough, considering the stakes?
Share your findings below.
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