Here's a hilarious, yet somewhat sad, story that will instantly resonate with students of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
From Poland — police officers in the town of Bialogard were given a strict quota of writing one ticket per day, or they were threatened with a pay cut (“Poland. Policeman fines himself to meet his daily quota“). Hilarity ensued.
Predictably enough (because of the quota) – an officer was facing a day without writing a ticket. Well, his innate human creativity kicked in:
A police officer handed himself a fine in order to meet a quota of one penalty a day set down by his chief, a newspaper reported Thursday. The daily Gazeta Wyborcza said the policeman in the northwestern city of Bialogard wrote himself a 20-zloty ($6.50) ticket for walking on a railway line.
Quotas and targets like this are more often dysfunctional than helpful. As Brian Joiner wrote in his outstanding book Fourth Generation Management: The New Business Consciousness, there are three things that can happen when you have a quota or a target:
- Distort the system
- Distort the numbers
- Improve the system
The Polish police officer writing himself a ticket is definitely a case of distortion. People are really good at gaming the numbers. Leaders need to create an environment where people can be self motivated and can work to improve the system rather than gaming things…
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