The paradox world of numbers

"Weighing the pig does not make it any fatter" – a proverb that proofs to be especially true when dealing with indicator systems. But what chances do key performance indicators (KPI) provide and how can they be properly calculated and applied?

Text by Michael Schaffner


The paradox world of numbers

Image: © amtitus/

Key performance indicators are the "language of managers". In order to defend strategies or results, senior management often likes to push the use of KPIs to assess performance. The risks that might arise from not handling data properly are often ignored. However, even some basic knowledge of statistics can help optimize the use of key performance indicators.

KPIs can be tempting. After all, they provide the hope of having everything under control. And preventing a loss of control usually equals less stress. The paradox: just like weighing the pig does not make it any fatter or constantly testing students does not make them any wiser, a survey to determine KPIs does not optimize any process. Should KPIs fail and not reflect the desired result, they can even increase the stress potential. A basic understanding of statistics and a systematic approach to dealing with KPIs can help.

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