In some areas - say call centre response times, where x% of calls must be answered within y seconds, it's difficult (though not impossible- you can just drop a call to pick up another one, or you can be more innovative) to fiddle the stats unless you've got a bent IT guy.
In other settings you can be more creative. The NHS is renowned for its achievements in this area.
So, you think the staff and managers might be bending the stats ? Why not bring in an outside firm to test the systems anonymously? That's what Royal Mail did.
People sometimes say there's no initiative and invention in middle management at a large corporation. I wouldn't say that myself.
The unnamed source told Postcomm that several Royal Mail staff had found a way of cheating the supposedly independent system of checking mail delivery times, which was carried out by an external market research company... By intercepting the "test" letters, postal workers were able to hijack the performance assessment by making sure they were prioritised and delivered bang on time, giving an artificially high figure for the number of letters and parcels arriving on time.Managers would note down the name and address on the envelopes, and in some cases illegally open the mail to find addresses of other volunteer panellists. The addresses would then be entered into computer spreadsheets, listed by postcode area. In sorting and delivery offices, panellists were known as “key customers” and given top priority to ensure their post was delivered in time, to hit the performance targets. In some cases individual pillar boxes were also earmarked to make sure they were emptied as late as possible, to ensure the panellists did not miss the last post.
In the Motherwell delivery office a notice pinned to the wall told staff to bring any mail addressed to two particular people to the attention of the delivery manager's office. One of the addressees was a panellist. Postal workers also learnt to look out for "suspicious" mail. In some cases postmen realised they were delivering "test" mail when they delivered driving licences to people who did not have cars.
Postcomm found that Royal Mail delivery office managers were “accustomed to looking for (test mail) and showing other colleagues how to identify items of test mail”. In some cases, managers photocopied panellists’ mail and sent the copies to other managers. One manager from Scotland is even thought to have travelled to Manchester to brief his colleagues on how they could get involved in the scam.
I imagine the fact that the monitoring was by outsiders also stimulated group cohesion and company loyalty (sort of) in the Royal Mail chaps - and I bet they were chaps. It could almost become a game, outwitting them.
Just shows what can happen when you get the incentives right ;-)
No steering group needing reports and minutes, no sponsoring senior director, no project plans and milestones, no internal auditing, no box-ticking to show how actions are aligned with the latest version of the corporate culture - just spontaneous, organic co-operation at all levels and the required outcomes are achieved. Almost like the Marxist vision of how industry would run itself in an ideal Socialist society. Fantastic.