Every operations manager knows the importance of metrics.   Good metrics are a fundamental tool for managing any company.   Equally important is the use of judgment and having employees who understand the company’s core mission.    The following is a good example of a metric , born out a good objective, but which if weren’t for judgment would cause harm.

Average Time to Repair:  One of the departments that I am responsible for is a repair cell that evaluates, reconditions and tests components that have failed in the field.   The cell has a goal to have the average time to repair be 10 days or less.   This is a nice goal and motivates the operators to process the repairs in a timely manner.  But, in practice it sometimes is ignored in favor of a higher goal, called customer satisfaction.    The repair cell leader meets daily with the field service inventory manager to figure out what components in the repair cell are most in demand or are short in the field.  These items are prioritized.   Sometimes this runs counter to the 10 day metric.   There may be something that’s been in house for a few days, but because other items are higher priority it sits.  By the goal, the operator could be motivated to work on whatever is the oldest item in the queue, but this would leave the field team with items they don’t need.

Lean teaches us to only work on items that we need.  My mission statement to the repair cell operators is to talk daily with your customer and let them set the priority for what you need.  Ignore any artificial metric and use your judgment whenever a goal appears to conflict with what your customer wants.