What Would #Deming Say? Polish Police Officer Fines Himself to Meet Quota


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.

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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:

  1. Distort the system
  2. Distort the numbers
  3. 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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  1. JM says

    Definitely a great example of distortion of the system. Unfortunately tickets are a revenue stream that too many municipalities depend upon. From a government bureacrat’s perspective, the system still worked. The police officer simply accepted the lesser of 2 punishments for failing to perform (pay for a ticket or accept a pay cut). In the end the local government still met its daily revenue goal.

    I don’t agree with the system at all, but it’s not surprising. In the city where I live, the local bureacrats didn’t want to remove the redlight cameras because they didn’t want to lose the nice revenue stream from them (millions of dollars).

  2. Josh says

    Do you have an example that shows “distorting the numbers” you can share?

    1. Mark Graban says

      An example might be the government changing the way in which it measures unemployment (choosing to newly include or exclude certain groups). That does nothing to actually improve the system or create jobs.

  3. Karen Wilhelm says

    A couple of years ago, the heavily traveled road on my commute was under construction. As I drove past the area one morning before workers arrived, I was pulled over for going 42 in the 30 mph construction zone. After giving my my $90 ticket (for going 5 mph over the limit) the officer told me that if I went to traffic court, the judge might hear my story and waive the points against me on my license that would increase my insurance rates. Sure enough, the courtroom was full of people with tickets from the same stretch of road, all giving some sort of story to the judge. What did he lower my charge to? “Impeding traffic” with a $50 higher fine! Could you get more ridiculous? I’d rather have gone straight to the cashier to sign up for the $50 shakedown and paid the higher fine without wasting my time in court. Wonder what would have happened if I actually had been impeding traffic. And how did the city make sense of their traffic enforcement statistics when they analyzed them?

  4. […] blogged about this topic before — see my post from late 2010 about a Polish police officer writing himself a ticket in order to meet a daily quota (true story). As I wrote there, Brian Joiner wrote in his outstanding book  Fourth Generation […]

  5. […] What Would #Deming Say? Polish Police Offer Fines Himself to Meet Quota – Snyggt exempel på hur mätsystem kan slå fel! […]

  6. […] What Would #Deming Say? Polish Police Offer Fines Himself to Meet Quota […]

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