Counter metrics

Goodhart’s law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

When the Soviet Union factories were given targets for how many nails they needed to produce, they make small and useless nails.

When the hospitals in Britain were penalized for wait times longer than four hours. The hospitals asked their ambulances to take the long road to the hospital. Even though the roundabout path hurt patients.

When Uber took on an aggressive win-at-all-cost expansion strategy, HR covered up a sexual harassment case from a high performer. It blew up in their face and the CEO got fired.

There is nothing that focuses the mind like a single target. But when money is the end goal, we easily forget our health and family.

There is a solution. As pointed out by Andy Grove in High-Output Management, it’s important to have a target but it is equally important to track counter metrics for context.

For customer service, it could be the speed of tickets closed and counter that with customer satisfaction.

For engineering, it could the percentage of ticket closed and counter that with the importance/priority of the ticket.

For sales, it could sales revenue and counter that with the renewal revenue or returning customers.

Life is never about one thing or one purpose, at all cost. When it’s the case, it ceases to be a good measure. What’s your target and what’s your counter metrics?

Tools for pandemic resilience

Panic is a hobby. Hobby in the sense that it doesn’t produce a useful outcome. That is something we can choose to do or not do, based on how we tell ourselves a story. 

As I looked back, I identified some tools that have helped me along the way.

Worst-case planning – let me look into the worst future and imagine it. Once I’ve accepted (death), there are very little things that I need to be panicking about. 

Tim Ferriss’s fear setting exercise allows me to shine a light at the boogie-man. And the boogie-man is only scary because it exists in our heads. Turn on the lights, and it’s gone. 

I do the 5-minute journal every day. It is 4 simple questions that help me plan my day, be happier and get it done. 

I ditch the gym commute and practice The Happy Body every day, 20mins a day. It’s like yoga with weights at the comfort of my room. 

60% Revenue – is a planning exercise to see what you’ll do when your salary or revenue is cut by 60%. It might feel ominous to do it. But it prevents stupid decision when the hair is on fire. And in my experience, having a plan B in place is the best way to be prepared. 

Canned Sardines is a great source of protein and can last for a long time. If you can be happy with that, you’ll be a happy camper. 

Similarly, toilet paper is a luxury. The human has survived as a species without toilet paper for a long time, and I’m sure I can do without. This could be a real skill to live without, back to the basic. 

Organise a zoom lunch. If you’re the organiser, you’ll always have a seat at the table. Bring people together, to have lunch, to work, to play a game together. 

Learn how to get an online side-gig. It could be writing, research, coding, designing or video editing. Pick something you are interested in, start a profile and learn a skill that can make some side income online. 

This pandemic is not new to the human race. We’ve been through the Berlin Blockade, Cuban mission crisis, the Vietnam war, HIV, 9-11 and the 2008 real estate crash. There is no avoiding it. It’s coming. We’ve done this before and we’re going to do it again. Together. 

Curing Racism

Just yesterday, a Singapore lady was transferred to my hostel dorm. Upon learning that one of her roommates is from China, without saying 2 words, she jumped up and complained that the hostel is irresponsible. Is she racist or is she fearful for her safety?

If we notice, most small companies run by female founders have primarily female employees. Similarly, companies are dominated by people of the same race. Is it really hard to be diverse or is it that the hiring manager only knows to evaluate their own ‘kind of talent’?

If you don’t know by now, we are all born racists. Not because we want to be divisive, in fact just the opposite. It is because it is the easy thing to do.

Now, we have laws and quotas to help. And those are great for the short-term.

But in the long term, that is not a magic pill because the real culprit is fear.

Curing racism begins with accepting that we are fearful. We resort to easy thinking for safety and most importantly, we can change it.

It is through the work of continual understanding and learning. Drip by drip, one generation to the other, one person at a time.

Learning becomes hiding

The question is when?

As the barriers of book publishing go down, the number of new books get published increase exponentially. For the first time in history, it’s impossible to finish all the books that out there. No, that is not inclusive of online courses, blog articles and e-books.

We are drowning in a sea of useful information, trapped in a never-ending cycle of new information.

A useful question: what are you doing to do with this knowledge?

It’s certainly possible. You might just like to learn for the sake of learning. And that’s okay.

There are big problems out there. Behind a pile of books (or browser tabs), that a good place to hide.

Name calling

When we call someone racist, sexist, or a capitalist, what are we hoping for?

Here’s the thing: the best way to push someone away is by branding them with a pejorative label, obstruct a useful conversation, turning them into that other.

Much more useful: Hold them to a higher standard, identify the behaviour that’s counter-productive and talk about it.

And of course, there’s an art. The rule is to stop attacking the person and avoid the lizard brain, the Amygdala from acting up.

Instead of saying to someone, “Hey, that’s not cool man” causing all sorts of defence mechanism to fire up.

What if we say, “Hey, I know you’re not a racist.”

By assuming positive intent, it opens up a conversation with curiosity. And if there’s a change that needs to be made, we’ve crafted yourself an opportunity.

The seven magic words. Let’s start talking about it.