Only bullies, cowards or fools set targets

This is the story of a teacher in a UK school who was set a target of 75% exam pass rate.

This summer the pass rate was 65%.

If we ignore all the things we know about measures and targets (common cause variation, arbitrary nature of targets, no method etc) there still was something meaningless in this particular cruelty.

“the truth is that eight of our students missed their C grade by one mark, and they did this because the exam board shifted the grade boundaries for controlled assessments up, which pushed students who had worked hard to achieve a mid-to-high level C into D territory. The fact of the matter is, my department’s teaching was good enough to meet the target, but we were at the mercy of exam boards and their arbitrary decision-making.”

The teacher in question is resigning as head of department and probably leave teaching altogether. The people who set the target of 75%?

They’ve set the target for next year to be 93%.

So here’s a simple heuristic…
If a manager sets a numeric target, they’re a bully, coward or a fool. Or combinations thereof.

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12 Responses to Only bullies, cowards or fools set targets

  1. bulldozer00 says:

    I wouldn’t be so harsh. I think “target setters” are simply ignorant, mindless, and getting by on what what they were taught by similarly clueless dolts. It’s sad for target recipients, but what can be done other than leaving the toxic environment? When shit like that is distributed through an environment, there is no one place to go to “fix” it.

    Like

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Well I DEBATED with myself for a while, but let it stand because I thought, for the moment at least, I’d think as stupidly as target setters. Fuck it, why hold myself to the highest standard I can, when others don’t? Why not LIVE A LITTLE instead,?

      Liked by 1 person

      • bulldozer00 says:

        It’s all about the system. As you know, individuals are dwarfed by the systems they choose to participate in. 🙂

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        • ThinkPurpose says:

          And yet…i don’t give a toss, right now.
          I’m amongst the lowest of the low, and yet I’m not a believer in targets, so I don’t care, right now, if others are under some kind of systemic pressure to be believers and have a massive salary. I owe them nothing. Fuck’em, I say. They’ve as much a chance as I ever had to think differently.
          I think as I get older, I care less about richer people than me and the reasons why they’re complete dipshits.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tom Bricks says:

            I feel very similarly. Some of them can get it if they want – but they conspire to not understand. It’s still systemic – the system rewards them for being dipshits! But you know what? I say fuck ’em too! I think maybe we need to start considering what guerilla tactics to undermine the system which supports this bullshit might be. How could we stop trying to see the world from their point of view in some vain hope that we can begin to help them change their thinking (in so many cases this just cannot work because they are too fucking stupid!) and do something more direct to subvert the system that after all has been good to them. Eh? Actually we probably just need to get it off our chests.

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  2. james says:

    I think what’s missing here is link or links back to “what we already know about targets” New readers may need their hands holding a little.

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  3. Bob AInsworth says:

    In a target driven, command and control environment, how do you reply to someone who says (when you haven’t hit target because you’re a systemy person) ‘Well everyone else managed it’

    Liked by 1 person

    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Honestly don’t know.
      I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, the answer.
      It’s a hopeless situation defined already before you entered it.

      Like

      • Bob Ainsworth says:

        Yes it’s exactly that, I’ve just come back from an internal interview and when asked how I work, ‘systemsy approach given, non target approach explained’ I was asked ‘Well, how do we know if people are working or not or just being lazy, without targets?’
        ‘Because everyone is in the work doing the work and finding out why the system isn’t working and how they can change this, it empowers people (yeh I used empower) so they have no reason to be’

        I’m not getting the job,…….. am I?

        Like

        • Bob Ainsworth says:

          Nope, i didn’t but I did get signed off work with stress. So there is that. It’s times like this I wish I hadn’t heard of tVM and was just a ‘normal’ robot.

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          • ThinkPurpose says:

            Im going to do your comment you left on a post called”not one reply” as a blog post tomorrow on whether systems thinking IS ACTUALLY BAD FOR YOU. if your a low level grunt. And the sad denouement of this comment.
            And perhaps SHOULD systemsy stuff be kept only for high up people in charge who can actually change things?

            What’s the point in it otherwise, should it have a health warning?

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