Don’t be pacified.

Want to hear something funny? Mikey (our 9 month old) loves to eat and becomes frustrated when his mouth is blocked by a pacifier. I can’t help but laugh as his eyebrows furl with confusion.

He can’t quite figure out why his fistful of peas and carrots aren’t making it to his mouth. I know he’ll grow out of this predicament, but as adults, we still get hung up on pacifiers.

Pacifiers are like business metrics. They are comforting – they provide a quick response to a need. Chomping on trends in inventory turns, employee retention, or productivity measures make us feel more confident that we know our business. We even make decisions off of them.

Productivity down? Maybe a revenue sharing plan will help.

Delivery estimates continuously off? Maybe we should move to an agile methodology.

First-call resolve percentage low? Maybe help-desk/support training is needed.

Metrics, like pacifiers, have their place. If you need a quick measure in a business presentation, or would like to track performance over time, then use the metrics. But if you want to understand them and get to the meat of any issue – don’t rely on metrics alone. Instead, dig into the issue – spend time with the people on the front lines, and take the pacifier out of your mouth.

Above all, question your metrics. Do they really capture what you’re trying to measure? What conclusions can you draw out of the metric? What does the metric ignore?

Sometimes another pair of eyes is helpful. This was the case with Mikey. He needed help realizing that his pacifier wasn’t going to help him with his hunger. By the time the pacifier was out of his mouth, the peas and carrots were on the floor. Good thing we have a dog.

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