2018 February 11: Metrics

February 11, 2018 10:30

"Of Foreign Lands & Places"      R. Schumann (1810-1856)

"Be Thou My Vision"

Improvisation

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the music of Bach. I ‘moved out’ at age 17, and my adequate but meager income generated with my little self-employed business (too young to be legally employable, or even open a checking account!) meant I had to save up my pennies to buy just one more volume of the Complete Bach Organ Works until I had them all (ten volumes or so, depending on the publisher). Of the available publishers, to me the Peters edition stood head and shoulders above the rest. (Peters has been around for almost 150 years, and is a well-regarded music publisher.)

So I’ve been using that same Peters edition for over four decades now. The fact that the pages are turning brown and getting brittle with age is cause for pause — because, I am too!

So I’ll just order a fresh set. The first volume arrives, I put it on the organ music desk up in our loft, press the pages to stay open, and CRACK — the glued binding fails, and the pages fall out on very first use. This was not the case with the identical volumes I purchased over four decades ago which had a SEWN BINDING (thread holds the signatures together). Almost everything about the copy I purchased in ages past is now falling apart — EXCEPT for the SEWN BINDING.

In other words, somewhere in the intervening decades Peters switched from sewn binding, which is absolutely essential for a music score usable for playing, to a ‘glued binding’ (frequenty called a ‘perfect binding’ ARG!!!). Glued binding works fine for paperback novels in the grocery store checkout line, but not for music scores that have to lay flat. And scores are not inexpensive: the new Peters score that fell apart on first use was $40. Clearly Peters did this to cut costs. Great, think of all the money they’ll save due to me never buying a score from them again.

The true story is told of a Computer Support Manager at a company whose personal measure of ‘a job well done’ was minimum downtime for the computer users in his care. To that end his team was proactive about installing the latest patches, making sure preventative maintenance was performed on all computers, etc.

Corporate, however, decided that THEIR metric of an effective manager was ’number of problems solved’. Since our manager prevented problems from happening in the first place, his ‘number of problems solved’ was low, and he was let go as ‘ineffective’. Unwittingly ‘corporate’ chose as their measure of success ‘machines breaking down and getting fixed most often’ instead of ‘total up time for the end users’.

A number of years ago a computer company in which I was a partner had occasion to do work for the local county air pollution control board, and we soon learned that their goal was not to reduce air pollution: “We like it when company’s pollute, because then we can fine them and that money goes into our budget. And the companies don’t mind, because it’s cheaper to pay the fine than to reduce pollution.” Apparently ‘pollutants in the air’ was not a measure by which the county board of supervisors assessed the effectiveness of their air pollution board.

It’s amazing how often “you get what you measure.” Or, in other words, you tend to get that upon which you focus your attention. How you measure ‘success’, and how you focus your attention to achieve that, make all the difference in the world.

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