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One of the underlying causes of the dysfunctional behaviour sometimes experienced in performance management is where individual measures and targets look at only specific parts of a problem.As a result are asked to achieve targets that are locally optimal, but dysfunctional in the big picture and wider system.

By their nature measures are analytical: that is they take a part the organisation and take apart the organisation.  Measures look at individual aspects (perspectives) of the organisation in the same way that a knife would carve the organisation into pieces.  They focus on one aspect or dimension of the organisation or system, for instance money, activity, outputs.  In contrast, an objective with well written characteristics is good at defining the whole system, not just part.   

This “analysis” is useful when you want to understand the parts and the detail.  It is less helpful when you want to look at the whole, when you want to look at a more holistic, complete or systemic picture. Attaching targets and incentives to these narrow measures can cause people to try and achieve these narrow measures when in fact they are dealing with only a small part of the system and in effect sub-optimising.

Developing an objective before you start to develop measures means the measures no longer sit in isolation but are part of a whole story.  The measures and the description of the objective provide a more complete picture that is less likely to be misinterpreted.