Bad metrics and posts citing poor economic theory.

Typically the type of post I saw over at Harvard Business Review is something most seen during the March Madness basketball tournament.  Everyone has seen the type: some event is costing businesses and the economy Billions of dollars due to lost productivity.  Yet somehow the world always moves on and there are no significant economic ramifications.

I’ve found my new favorite entry in the series:  Workers Are Bad at Filling Out Timesheets, and It Costs Billions a Day.

Wow.

Just let that title sink in a bit.

I’m just going to throw out to everyone that this post from HBR is all based on a study from a company self-interested in showing timekeeping inefficiencies.  Because they sell software to better help businesses manage such.  And yet this post from HBR takes this study at face value and bases all sorts of conclusions on it.  I almost don’t even want to write what follows simply for this fact yet there are going to be many that believe everything written in the original because its HBR.

To start, I’m not sure that any business lets timesheets cost them that much.  Seems like every business that charges by the hour would have noticed this giant sink of money.  But then, maybe no one realized all this.

But it gets better.  The culprit is not actually timesheets, those are just a symptom.  The culprit is actually email.  There’s too much of it and it’s not easily reportable on a timesheet.  We get to much and we don’t spend a nice round 15 minute increment dealing with each message.

So in sum:  Email is costing businesses billions a day because employees have a hard to accurately recording every minute of their day onto timesheets.

These are the types of posts that really cause me to question the sanity of how we approach business in this world.  No business lets timesheets cost them money (there is always some overhead baked into our reporting).  Email is not causing the downfall of our economy (not stated explicitly in the post but seems to be a natural extrapolation).  The number of words spent writing the original post could easily have been spent on better uses of time (if we want to worry about poor efficiency of time).

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