Friday, August 04, 2006


Why Performance Measurement for Knowledge Workers is Always Counterproductive

This is for those managers who believe they can promote team work by giving raises to just a few members of a team! If you are a manager that has recently experienced high staff turnover, I suggest you read this carefully:

  1. When team members are in competition with one another for their livelihood, team work quickly evaporates.
  2. There is no greater demotivator than a reward system that is perceived to be unfair. It does not matter whether the system is fair or not, only that there is a perception of unfairness.
  3. When management exhort team members to do what is clearly impossible through the offer of rewards rather than helping to make the task possible, people are likely to be insulted and give up without even trying.
  4. Optimising a part of chain invariably suboptimises overall performance. One example is separating software development from support and maintenance. If developers are rewarded for meeting a schedule even if they consequently deliver error-prone code without automated test suites, then support and maintenance will cost far more than was saved during development.
  5. Once team members get used to receiving financial rewards for meeting goals, they begin to work solely for the rewards, not the intrinsic motivation that derives from doing a good job and making their company successful.

(Taken from ‘Team Compensation’ by Mary Poppendieck, Aug 2004, reprinted in ‘The Best Software Writing I’, selected and introduced by Joel Spolsky)


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