Targets and Quotas – Wrong for Police and Business

The New York Daily News has reported the cheating going on by NYPD narcotics detectives.  Police feared their being demoted or being paid attention to by superiors by not achieving quotas set by the department.  Targets, quotas or arbitrary numerical goals as W. Edwards Deming called them will always lead to bad behavior.

This is no different in business.

In a survey conducted in the article 96% of readers believe arrest quotas drive the wrong behavior. Yet quotas and targets are prevalent in many organizations both public and private.  Targets and quotas become the defacto purpose driving behavior in any system.

I am not attempting to excuse the detectives, but we shouldn’t excuse the system that made them cheat either.  Fix the system and you fix much of the behavior.  Fear and rewards better known as carrot and sticks has long become an outdated way to manage.

Building systems that work for customers and not focus attention on an individual’s performance is a good place to start.  You get clarity when you focus on the customer and their needs . . . and you get manipulation when you targets, quotas, incentives and rewards.  Managing with targets and quotas is lazy, building a better system to build value and profit is much harder work.

If 96% of us believe that quotas are the wrong thing for police, shouldn’t we be looking at the damage they are causing in business?

I think so.

The evidence is out there, but you have to look for it.  Making up evidence does no one any good.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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