One frequent mishap in larger organizations is exaggerated confidence in KPIs.
It is interesting to note that the literature on management, spends little to no attention on the accuracy of the measurement, while the literature on leadership barely mentions such KPIs at all. When discussing topics that are easy to measure, like manufacturing, taking the accuracy of KPI measurements for granted may make sense – however, the business of software is so far largely resisting meaningful, repeatable measurement. KPIs are so important because, often, KPIs are tied to people’s bonuses, which immediately invites, encourages … tuning of KPI actuals.
Now I wouldn’t want to discuss those cases where this leads to a true conflict of interests. I do want to discuss those cases where, in the best of intentions, the situation in the project and the project’s KPIs diverge, or those cases where KPI actuals differ too far from their targets.
Those are the cases where René Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images” can turn out to be really helpful to clarify the following point: It’s not good enough to fix the KPI actuals – the KPI actuals can be fixed in a range of different ways. The KPI actuals are only “the image of a pipe”, and they do point at an issue with the pipe itself. Fix the pipe itself (some people would call it root cause analysis, but in my understanding it’s – so far – only scratching the surface), then re-assess the image.