Notes to Myself


January 2017

A real-life example of Metrics



Further to my earlier blogs on Metrics, here is a real-life example of Metrics.

Our Government’s endeavor is to bring in more transparency and make things accountable (and of course, measurable). Right To Information Act 2005 is one such tool through which citizens can seek information on various aspects of governance.

Recently, just ahead of the Republic Day the Government of India announced list of this year’s Padma awardees and caused some debate. The list contains mix of many “unsung heroes” as well as politicians such as Sharad Pawar!

However, before the announcement the Government had invited nominations from Citizens in addition to the authorities who can nominate people for Padma awards (authorities include – Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers and such officials).


I am not sure since when the process of getting nominations from citizens started but it must be a recent phenomenon. And Government and government supporters take pride in starting such initiative.

NDTV reported that Home Ministry received 5000+ nominations this year through the portal.

I had a stimulating debate with one of staunch supporters of Government who claimed that the initiative to invite nominations from Citizens is a great reform and shows that Government is transparent.

I disagreed. My argument was that the Government initiative for online nominations from Citizens is at best an example of “process automation”. Getting 5000 nominations doesn’t imply anything about the transparency or fairness of selection; or the process resulting in awarding Padma Sri to “many unsung heroes”.

Let’s put it in terms of Metric.

My point is that “number of online nominations” could be a metric for measuring effectiveness of “process automation”. Number of nominations is NOT a metric for fairness of selection process or identifying “unsung heroes” who deserve the award.

The online nomination process had two categories. Nomination by Authorities (Chief Ministers of states, Cabinet Ministers, Governors and such key government officials), and nomination by Citizens.

The nomination process required a Registered User (identified by mobile number and other details) to nominate a person for Padma award and give 800 words write-up justifying the nomination. The NDTV report said that the Government received 5000 such nominations – from Authorities and Citizens.

To make my point I plan to file an RTI query to get following information:

  1. How many nominations were received from Citizens and how many were received from Authority

This would give us the break-up of 5000+ nominations


  1. How many of the people nominated “exclusively” by Citizens finally got Padma awards.

This would tell us how many people “exclusively” nominated by Citizens got the award. i.e. the people who were not nominated by “authorities” but were nominated by “citizens”


  1. How many people distinct nominations were submitted by Citizens. And list of top three nominations

This would tell us how many “different” nominations Citizens came up with. i.e. how broad the suggestions were. It may happen that all citizens unanimously nominated only 1 person (extreme case), or it could be possible that each citizen nominated a unique person (the other extreme).

I think having such Metrics would tell us whether the Government is really “considering” Citizen’s suggestions or not. In absence of such Metrics and going simply by the number of online nominations received, the process is reduced to nothing more than a reality show voting game – similar to Indian Idol or Big Boss. And we really don’t know if the voters’ choice really ends up being winner of Indian Idol or Big Boss.

Can you suggest more such Metrics which would determine the “effectiveness” of process of getting citizens to participate in choosing Padma awardees?



On Statistics & Distributions

I am planning to write few posts on Statistics and Distributions soon.

Meanwhile, here is some food for thought…



Metrics – You are what you measure yourself on!

Even since I studies Statistics, and Six Sigma principles I got interested in Metrics. I had studied a subject on Instrumentation and Control in my under-graduation (Mechanical Engineering). But it was more about what different tools you use to measure, to take readings in conducting experiments. It was not about Metrics – the purpose and principles of setting right Metrics.

The purpose of Accounting (Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss Statement, Cash Flow Statement) is to “measure” how the business is doing. You need a lot more analysis and ratios to understand the health of business; however it starts with the basic activity of recording, and reporting of transactions – i.e. by measuring. The same is true for everything.

Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen wrote an article in 2010 titled “How Will You Measure Your Life?“. It was later published as a book with same title, which received a lot of attention and applaud.

Without getting into details of the book, the point I want to emphasize is on “measuring”.

That which is measured, will improve.

Actually this is not entirely true. Here is the precise argument.


And this view causes all complications and trouble. Everything in life comes at a cost – it could be monetary cost (tangible, countable), or non-monetary costs such as Opportunity Cost, Social Cost, Psychic Cost etc.

Thus the dilemma is not only about “measuring to improve”, but “at what cost?”. Cost benefit analysis of measure becomes an important part in designing the measure. Let me give an example. In 100 meter sprint, the winner of 1920 Summer Olympics clocked 10.6 sec, the runner-up 10.8 sec and the second runner-up 11.0 sec. The time recorded was only up to first decimal place i.e. 1/10th of the second was “the least measure”. Now we can record up to two decimal places i.e. 1/100th of a sec. And this comes at a cost. We need technology, support staff etc. to measure that level of accuracy.

Can we assume that we cannot record time up to 1/1000th of time? Maybe not. We probably “can” record a time such as 9.975 sec; but “at what cost?”. And more importantly: is it required? If the winner is completing the race in 9.58 sec (Usain Bolt!) and the second-best is taking 9.62 sec, why do we need accuracy up to 1/1000th of sec?

The same is true about any other measurement. John Maynard Keynes, the famous Economist and Nobel-laureate once said: “It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong“. You should not “measure” something with lot of accuracy just because you have the tools and techniques available. The important question is: Does it serve the purpose for which you want to measure?

However, lot of times people confuse measure with target. Goodhart’s Law summarizes it well.


Increasing employee headcount to 100,000. Having 100 offices across the world. Being on cover of TIME or Forbes magazine. Are these targets or measures? You may reach 100,000 employees or 100 offices by acquiring another company. Then what? What you do with employees and offices should be a goal  and not the 100,000 or 100.

And yet organizations often set wrong KPIs. A CEO of $500 million IT Services Company would be given a target of achieving $1 billion in 2 years. The $1 billion then ceases to be a measure and becomes a target. He would tell his subordinates to “hire more people” to achieve the $1 billion target. “Hiring more people” then becomes a target for his subordinates. The hiring target would then be broken down into X% of laterals and Y% of freshers. The campus hiring team would go to campus and select Y% from ANY stream, because Y% was set as the Target! The selected freshers from unrelated streams (Chemical, Mechanical, Petroleum?) need to be trained. So you build training facilities, university like campus, run training institute like L&D programs – because training Y% has become your target!

It’s a chain reaction…

I will write in next blog about few other aspects related to implications of Metrics and its power to change behavior.


Metrics, KPIs and CSFs – in Business and in Life

What is a Metric?


Here I am referring to the first definition i.e. a system or standard of measurement, and not the Metric system.

Metrics are for measurement. Business Metrics are for measuring Business parameters. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are for measuring performance. Critical Success Factors (CSFs) are for measuring the outcome (of an initiative or a project or a decision). Different names – but ultimately they all are Metrics – a system of measurement.

And why do you measure? You want to manage, and improve things. As Peter Drucker put it: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” and “What gets measured gets managed”


Metrics should not be confused with Data or Information.

You can’t pick your data, but you must pick your metrics.

Slightly deviating from Metrics, do read about DIKW Pyramid. I’ll write a separate article on DIKW (borrowing from my MBA dissertation). But for now, keep in mind that Data is NOT Information. Information is NOT Knowledge. And Knowledge is NOT Wisdom. So don’t use these terms loosely, and interchangeably.

Coming back to Metrics – Metrics is not same as Data or Information (or even Knowledge/Wisdom). I’ll  talk about this common habit of mistaking a Metric for an Insight later. Let’s look at some reasons to measure:


Metrics are a special form of Statistics. Statistical study is the practice or science of collecting and analysing numerical data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample. While the purpose of statistics is “to infer”, the purpose of Metrics is more specific – “to infer in order to manage”. Anything that gets measured is easier to manage – simply because you can understand it better.


Focus on Metrics has been the backbone of statistical analysis, process improvement, Quality initiatives and Six Sigma methodology of DMAIC [ Define –> Measure –> Analyze –> Improve –> Control]

DMAIC methodology tells us something important in the journey of transformation. D comes ahead of M. You have to “define” what you want to achieve and hence what you want to “measure”. This is the foundation of Performance Management or philosophy of Management by Objectives (MBOs).

By setting right performance metrics AND right incentives, benefit/reward system you can INDUCE favorable behavior and manage performance.

You will realize how crucial this thought is once you look around and see its application. “Carrot and Stick Approach” is the crudest form of this principle. You incentisize by showing a carrot or bring in discipline by using a stick. However, understand that carror or sticks are NOT Metrics. They are rewards or penalties. Not the metrics.

Metrics are not outcomes. However, good metrics should “influence” outcome.

Let’s build on this thought. You want a child old teenager to “behave”. You use carrot and stick approach. You reward the boy with a candy if he behaves well. You punish him with stick if he misbehaves. Neither candy nor stick are metrics. Also, the “good behavior” is not a metric. But the measure by which you’ll determine whether the behavior is “good” is a metric.

Why is this understanding important? Suppose you tell the child that he should “behave well” to get a candy, otherwise he would be beaten up. The child would ask “What do you mean by “behave well”? In other words, the child is saying “Define the metrics that would determine if he behaved well or not”.

Now if the metric is set as the following:

  1. If the child studies for 4 hours a day, completes home-work, doesn’t watch TV, sleeps before 9 PM and gets up at 6 AM – without fail for 1 year – that’s good behavior and would get reward
  2. If the child fails at any of these even for a SINGLE DAY – that’s bad behavior and would get punishment


You can see that the metric is “designed to fail”. The success criteria is so difficult that the child would think that no matter how hard he tries he is not going to achieve. You are bound to miss those targets some time during one long year. So by setting such steep metric you cannot bring any behavior change in the child.


Well, almost yes, but not entirely…

What we are not considering here is Metrics and Reward/Punishment relation.

Let’s say for the same Metric the reward is not a candy but a brand new Xbox or Playstation console! Now the target is worth giving a try. Or let’s take the other extreme scenario (and this is really really extreme, meant only as an example). For the same Metric the punishment is that the boy would be beaten up to death. Now the target looks really achievable.

So the key point is – setting a right metric AND setting right reward/penalty system will likely lead to change in behavior and improvement.

Following picture summarizes the “Metrics –> Behavior –> Outcomes” link.


I will continue this in next blog posts and talk about why Metrics fail.


“What I Learned From Complete Burnout At Work” by Tomasz Tunguz

I came across a nice article on Linkedin written by Tomasz Tunguz and thought of reproducing it here (with link to the original article on Linkedin – and of course with due credit to the writer!)


During my first few weeks at Google, I read through the internal resumes of my new colleagues, which detailed their work and promotion paths. Google promoted people quickly. Some college graduates who had distinguished themselves had been promoted every quarter for more than a year, and were managers, senior managers, even directors. And I wanted the same type of trajectory.

So I resolved to work as much as possible to achieve it. At the outset, I began to take on other projects. Small things like an extra research project. Or helping a friend with a presentation.

One day, when I thought we needed a basic CRM for our team, I stayed up late into the morning building one, called Toothpaste.

Pretty soon, the extra work began to consume a lot more time. I began to sleep less, going to bed on consistently after midnight, sometimes sleeping only a few hours.

I doubled down on productivity tools looking to do more in less time. I began to focus on reducing interruptions and tallied each time someone interrupted me.

Amidst the growing workload, I wanted to keep up an exercise regimen similar to the one I had on the crew team at school. The earliest San Francisco to Mountain View bus arrived too late to work out for more than an hour to be in the office before 730.

So when I happened to meet Marty, who ran the Google bus program, I asked if there might be an earlier shuttle. The next week, a bus began arriving at my Google bus stop around 4am. I would climb aboard and fall asleep in the back row. Somewhere along the way, we would stop to pick up one of the Google chefs, rising early to prepare breakfast. I might arrive around 5, workout for about 90-120 minutes and then back to my desk.

Weekends I tried to catch up on sleep, but often, I worked most of Saturday and Sunday too. I was a flywheel spinning out of control.

On Christmas Eve 2005, my family admitted me to the emergency room. Bacterial pneumonia. Everyone told me my lifestyle was unsustainable and it had to change. Especially my manager. This was the fourth time in four quarters that I had been to the ER.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things about how to avoid burnout:

  1. I am responsible for setting boundaries. Work time, sleep time, family time, you time. If I don’t set them properly, things get unbalanced very quickly.
  2. Being productive isn’t about doing more and more in the same amount of time. It’s about doing only the most important things well. And either saying no to the other things or finding another way for them to get done.
  3. I can’t win a marathon by thinking of it as 26 mile long sprints, or a week as 5 day-long sprints.
  4. Loved ones are good judges of when things are in and out of balance, and in my case, my wife helped me find more balance.
  5. Taking time off is essential. Vacations, yes, but also nights and weekends.

At the beginning of each year, I try to remember that feeling of being out of balance, of being in the hospital with pneumonia, to reflect on how I should be spending time this year.

Which are the most important things I need to do well in 2017? And which things just aren’t?

Source: This Linkedin Article by Tomasz Tunguz

चितळे दूध यांचा (सुधीर जोशी यांच्या भाषेतला) “हलकटपणा”

पुणेकरांबद्दल आणि पुण्यातल्या विक्षिप्त, आगाऊ, विचित्र दुकानदारांबद्दल अनेक विनोद तुम्ही ऐकले, वाचले (किंवा रचले?) असतील…

आणि त्यात बऱ्याच प्रमाणात तथ्यदेखील असते. आता आजचेच उदाहरण पहा ना…

आजच्या “सकाळ” मध्ये “चितळे बंधू” यांची ही जाहिरात आली आहे. चितळे डेअरी यांनी दुधाच्या दारात वाढ केली. आता यात विशेष काही नाही. पण जर तुम्ही त्याखालचा मजकूर वाचलात तर समजेल की अशा आगाऊपणामुळे पुणेकरांचे नाव कसे बदनाम होते…



म्हणजे ह्यांच्या जुन्या पिशव्या (जुने दर छापलेले असलेल्या) वाया जाऊ नयेत म्हणून ग्राहकांनी समजावून घ्यायचे आणि रु. २ जास्त देऊन “सहकार्य” करायचे?!

तरी नशीब शेवटी “…ही विनंती” असं लिहिलंय… “हुकुमावरून” असं नाही.

साधारण ३.८% किंमत वाढवल्यावर (५२–>५४) पिशव्यांवर नवीन किंमत छापायचा खर्चही ह्यांना नकोसा वाटतो? ह्यावर “अशी ही बनवाबनवी” मधला सुधीर जोशी यांचा हा डायलॉग आठवला…

“हा हलकट हलकटपणा आहे माने… हे जे काही तुम्ही चालवलं आहे ना, तो हलकटपणा आहे!”






A Blog (Series?) on Metrics, and Measuring for Managing Performance

I want to write a blog post (or a series of blog posts) on Metrics, and measuring for managing performance. I have been thinking about it for quite a while and have scribbled few notes.

Hopefully I should be able to sit down and write in the month of January.

Not hopefully…that’s a commitment to myself! That’s what I learned from Peter Drucker 🙂


I will not have any new year resolutions henceforth (after 2017) in my life.

New Year Resolutions – Part 2

I will write a learning log and work on some of my ideas (2 related to charity, 2 related to business/alternate career, 1 related to self-improvement/learning, 1 related to passion/dream). I will do this at least once every 2 weeks. I will implement at least 1 idea. I will put aside some amount every month for implementing the idea.

Will review this by end of June 2017 and finalize the idea I would like to implement.



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