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Homepage / Hard Metrics and Soft Culture

Hard Metrics and Soft Culture


Cranfield is in the process of introducing a new faculty contribution system as part of the performance development review process (PDR). As part of that discussion, yesterday we were talking about the metrics and how they would be used to manage faculty.

Prof Hugh Wilson came up with this phrase, “Hard Metrics and Soft Culture”, which I took to. He was talking about having more facts on which to base the PDR, more real information about what people had done and contributed during the previous year. But he was also talking about how we go about motivating people and doing the development side of the review, rather than just looking at so called “contribution”.

We know from all the research we have done in the Centre for Business Performance that measurement doesn’t improve performance. By itself it does absolutely nothing. It is all about how we use the measures.

Are they sticks to beat people with? In that case they may have a limited positive effect for a short period of time but eventually this approach is doomed to failure. Are they ways of motivating us? This may be laudable, but I would argue that it is a short term solution and, although more acceptable, doomed to failure.

Measurement only makes a difference if it is used to change something that itself will improve performance. That may be the way we work, the improvement in the skills and experience of our staff, the systems we use, the processes we run. It may be that we focus on some things and not on others. But it is the reflection, learning and action that is so important. The rest is just administrative overhead.

Next time I will discuss “Soft Metrics and Hard Culture”.


Mike Bourne

Cranfield CBP

Written By: Cranfield University

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  1. davidanker2014 20/09/2017 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Mike, Nice observations here! Two points:
    1. There are some managers who get measurement mixed up with setting targets/rewards, and in so doing the measures get bastardised to suit certain political aims rather than the good aims of the organisation, and can encourage obtuse behaviour to meet targets rather than understand and improve an organisation’s performance.
    2. We’ve found extrinsic (i.e. use of targets) motivation of individuals is short-term and often damaging (per above), and have found that by using a so-called “Outcomes Framework” that links the organisation’s Purpose to Actions at the front-line enabling individuals to see clearly how their contribution impacts Purpose – this generates intrinsic motivation (most of the time) and is much more sustainable.

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