Recently, my wife and I rented a minivan for a family trip to Taos, NM. The dashboard computer for the vehicle supplied a mind-boggling number of metrics, including arrival time at destination, trip mileage, miles to empty, average miles per gallon, instantaneous miles per gallon, etc.
On the ten-hour drive through the monotonous scenery of West Texas, I got a bit bored and started trying to optimize some of the results reflected by these metrics. I modified my behavior—accelerating slowly, anticipating slowdowns, and letting go of the accelerator instead of braking. I managed to get the minivan to deliver 21 miles per gallon—not bad for a vehicle loaded with six adults, a five-year-old, and a lot of luggage.
My wife took over driving duties and I promptly informed her that she really needed to focus on hitting the MPG goal. Her response…”That’s ridiculous!” “Why would they put a MPG meter in the car if they didn’t want you to optimize for it?” I argued.
That discussion got me thinking about training metrics, measurements, and goals we set for our learning programs.
While I think it is absolutely crucial to use metrics to measure progress towards learning goals in our training programs, I think we should do so thoughtfully. Too often we get caught in the trap of measuring what’s easy to measure, measuring what our tools (LMS!) allow us to measure instead of measuring what aligns with the goals set for the learning program. Goals that hopefully align with broader organizational goals.
My wife was right, the goal of that trip was to get home safely and in a timely manner so the five-year-old didn’t get too cranky. Focusing and improving how many miles I got out of a gallon of gas (while entertaining in West Texas) was truly not aligned with the primary goal.