Equally Wrong

Just a quick one this time folks. It’s another absolute gem of target-related nonsense, sent in to me by a sharp-eyed blog reader. The following table was spotted being proudly displayed on the wall of an establishment whose identity I have obscured behind the ‘censored’ banner, so as to prevent embarrassment.


Usual questions…

  • How do they conjure up the figures?
  • Why is 15% the target for Black and Minority Ethnic applicants, yet 12% for those who actually start – is there some sort of anticipated failure rate of 3% built in for this particular group? Why is this?
  • Which category would a disabled female Black and Ethnic Minority person fit into?
  • Why isn’t there a target for disabled people? Surely that’s discrimination.
  • Are the percentage proportions actually reflective of the local working-age population? If not, you may as well forget ever achieving anything close to the targets.
  • 15% of what anyway? How many vacancies are there? What are the numbers? If the total number of places available happens to be less than 100, then it’s misleading to use percentages at all. A 5% shortfall in one of the categories might relate to half a person. Bring me your data!!

Hulk is offended by numerical targetsAside from these points, you might want to use my versatile targets checklist from a previous post to tick off why they’re about as useful as a chocolate fireguard, even if there might be a good idea in there somewhere about helping under-represented groups.

These targets are dreamt up using the traditional ‘finger in the air’ method, aren’t immune from causing dysfunctional behaviour (e.g. potentially deselecting a more able white male applicant in favour of a borderline applicant from one of the groups subject to targets), plus they don’t help anyone understand or improve the system. Incorporating numerical targets into the equation ensures that this recruitment process totally misses the point (i.e. its purpose), which I’d assume is that of selecting the best person for the job.

If you recognise this table as being in your place of work and want me to explain more about how it actually works against the very aims it professes to espouse, please feel free to contact me and I’d be very happy to help.

Lastly, if you can identify the two systems thinking legends reflected in the photo, I’ll buy you a beer.*

*Subject to the following conditions: 1. Maximum one winner per country. 2. Successful contestants must be available to collect their beer from a location specified by me using the Enigma code machine and within a maximum of 30 minutes following notification. 3. Prizewinners’ beer will be dispensed in very small thimbles. 4. Closing date for this competition was yesterday.


About InspGuilfoyle

I am a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker. I am passionate about doing the right thing in policing. I dislike numerical targets and unnecessary bureaucracy.
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3 Responses to Equally Wrong

  1. Great post!

    I know that targets always dysfunctional behaviour. Absolutely guaranteed. That poster is a brilliant example. Complete nonsense.

    I have a different view about the purpose of recruitment. For many jobs, a lot of people will be good enough (think Deming’s 95/5 – it’s not all about the people) and so it might be better to deselect a more able bodied white male applicant in favour of the someone from one of the groups in the table above if that person is ‘good enough’ (but not to meet a target, obviously). Looking for the ‘best’ person for the job is normal in command and control land where the focus is on individuals. .But what is best for the overall system?

    It might be better for the system to be led and run by people who are more represenative of the people it serves – especially in the context of a system traditionally led by white male able bodied men who may recruit in their image (not blaming them – it’s just what happens).

    Not for any other reason than because it will make the organisation better able to understand what matters to its citizens or customers. Understanding what matters to people is essential to good service.

    The purpose of recruitment should be to recruit someone who is good enough to do the job AND also redress any historical imbalances that could prevent the system from understanding and delivering what matters to its customers.

    No targets though. obviously. That would be madness.

    N.B Don’t be fooled – this is not a politically correct or worthy comment. It is a hard nosed rational systems comment.

  2. Pingback: Equally Wrong | SteveB's Politics & Economy Scoops | Scoop.it

  3. patently says:

    I’m pleased to see that the target of one alcohol-based incentive per blogpost has been met in this case. Well done!

    Looks like we need to set a new target for the alcohol-based incentives, though, to improve their in-practice achievability?

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