Target practice

21st January 2000 at 00:00
The Observer

Setting targets can distort priorities and be counterproductive

WHAT Labour fails to notice is that targets do not just measure how people are performing. They change behaviour, sometimes perversely.

Given extra money for cutting waiting lists, surgeons became too busy operating to see new patients. So waiting times for seeing a specialist prior to joining a waitig list grew longer. Heads deployed their teaching staff, not to show they can meet their class-size targets but to show they couldn't, so that they qualify for additional funding.

There will always be vested interests trying to make the meeting of a target more difficult, in order to extract maximum gain for themselves from the Government's embarrassment.

Leader, Sunday

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