Deming was against them.

Most corporations cannot live without them.

  • GOALS !!
  • KPI !

Are they really driving us towards Quality ?

What is Quality anyway ?

Forget the standard definitions. At least, forget the more precise one and look at the more vague ones.

Juran’s “Fit for use” …precise enough to comply with the client’s demands and vague enough for us to improve.

Deming’s “satisfaction of the customer” is also precisely based on the clients demands but let us strive for improvement.

Several other definitions can be found all over the Internet (the list from Quality Digest is interesting).

But Quality goals and metrics ? Hmm…my personal experience, albeit very limited to nine years with corporate goals, had a very strong impact on me….on the opposite direction.

The goal setting period at the beginning of each year was a source of frustration and despair ! And the performance evaluation at the end of the year was a recurring reason to contemplate violent expectoration of disbelief when the initial goals would not be considered against my “performance” but the most recent ones, added in the last quarter were suddenly oh, so important….

I remember also quite clearly, although it is almost ancient history, when the teachers would give us back our exams, term papers, research project or even…my master degree, the sinking feeling generated by the grade whenever it did not reflect the true quality of my work.

Oh yes, there were a few mistakes that were accounted for…always on the downward slope of the grading scale…

Oh yes, the specific parts required by the teacher were graded according to a specific scale…upward on the the scale !

And no, by the way, I did not fail any exam…

But what about the nicely woven sentences ?

What about the extra appendices ?

the nice pictures ?

the extra care to paginate correctly (remember the pre-word processor process of manually typing and retyping everything on a typing “machine”… ding !)

and most importantly the intellectually stimulating (ah, the innocence of youth !) conclusion ?

Could these be worthy anything ? OF COURSE  !!!

Were these nice “extras” graded appropriately ? NO.

Was I inclined to continue to add them, at great expense of efforts and, yes, excitement ?


Why ? (just for the record…I did not take any drugs at any time in my life…so there must have been another reason to keep going….)

These were not even evaluated and did not seem to be appreciated by the teacher who graded them.

Why did I pursue this unseen and very personal goal ?

Because I cared !

Not about the grade per se.

The grades were the consequences of that never ending journey towards what I considered Quality.

The grades were coming easily once the work had been completed…

The extra points were a different matter. But I knew they had been noticed. Similarly, the clients will not pay for all of the “extras” but will come back for more….because of those same extras.

Yes…I was shooting for more than 100% !!

I did not study to pass an exam. I would have stopped studying much sooner. I did not need to know 100% of the materials to pass the exam. BUT… I needed to know 100% of the material to get an education. In fact, I needed to know MORE than the materials required for the exam.

And your clients, colleagues, managers…..they all want more from you than what is “just” expected. You need to find the inner strength to deliver.

Most people will work to reach the goal and will be satisfied. Most corporations do not have a system to reward employees (some do !!) when they reach the goal but do NOT stop there….the “bonus”, if it exists, is most of the time at a fixed rate. Not in proportion to the results achieved.

When goals or grade are present, most people will work towards the goal…and stop upon reaching it.

Most people….

The overachievers are driven by something else.

Not by the goal per se, but the purpose of the goal.

“Seek not to imitate the master”, a Zen wise man once said, “rather seek what they sought !” If I remember correctly, they kept on seeking until the end of their life…and were quite content to do so !

I am still searching and this will drive me upward for a loooooong time !

Are you ?


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