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The Case Against Targets

Summary: The numerical targets popular in industry and government frequently undermine the probability of achieving the desired improvement. Targets distract from a focus on important issues, are arbitrary, and often lead to cheating. An explanation of these issues is given. An alternative to targets is "outside-in" thinking, which presents the customer's point of view. Determining what customers want and how systems can be designed to respond to those demands is the best way to deliver customer expectations. Outside-in thinking uses measurement to clarify and improve the performance of the system. Measures must relate to customer needs and be in the hands of the people doing the work so they are accountable for the results the system produces.

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