A constant focus on data and metrics becomes very depressing at work

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Nice little pull quote from here:

Last but not least, gathering the data takes time and energy away from the activities that are supposed to get measured — just ask doctors and nurses, or the chairs of academic departments. For all these reasons and more, metric fixation often leads to demoralization.

I mostly agree with this quote. There are analytic programs — including big ones like Google Analytics, but tons of startups — that are supposed to make data collection and analysis either. Not all these “solutions” actually deliver on their promise, unfortunately, and that’s probably truer in “Big Data” than anywhere. The dirty little secret about our supposed data revolution in organizations is that C-Suiters literally have no idea what they’re looking at most of the time, so I’m sure there are a bunch of Yale dropouts out there up-selling them on some “end-to-end analytics suite” and they’re just throwing cash at it. To ignore the possibility of that happening is folly.

But this whole deal is kind of similar to the old “We spend 300,000 hours/year preparing for one meeting” concept — the “analytic era” or “Big Data” or whatever you want to call it has created a situation where everyone is seemingly running around putting together reports for the top dogs. It’s unclear if the top dogs ever even see these reports, but this is what a lot of us in white-collar enterprise jobs spend time doing. “Gotta organize that data for Tom!”

And don’t even get me started on the issue of metrics and honesty.

The fact is, we’re still in a pretty fraught state around “metrics” these days. Some big companies “get” it and are doing it right, but in general:

To me, the whole deal is this: we think “Big Data” is the wave of the future, and that’s great that we think that. But it completely ignores human psychology. So much of work is about self-worth and relevance. You going to let an analytic software suite take that away from you? OK, maybe you can make more money in the process. Awesome. But what does the money mean if you aren’t relevant anymore and can’t control stuff? Work is largely about control. It’s not really about productivity or output. If it was, do you think HR would own “people metrics?” Do you think we’d have 15% global engagement rates? Negative.

I would personally think the idea of “guesswork” and/or “trusting your gut” is going to supersede Big Data for another 30–40 years, but maybe I’m a naive moron.

Hit me with your hot takes.

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