Vanity Metrics

Consequences: If vanity metrics are used to influence decision making, then those decisions will be taken with an unrepresentative view of the real status of a project. Any forecasts based on this information may be unfit for purpose, and the opportunity to secure advance warning of any problems may be lost.

Applicability: Vanity metrics can be used to entice third party investors. They are also often used within organizations to justify projects, and to protect and extend budgets.

Structure: A team review the progress of a project they are working on by inspecting the metrics they have gathered. They then filter these metrics down to a reduced data set which gives the most positive interpretation of project status to stakeholders.

Motivation: Team members can be tempted to show their efforts in the best light rather than in a more objective one. They may cherry-pick data in support of this position so as to encourage the further commitment of stakeholders.

Intent: Use only the most favorable metrics in order to strike a posture

Proverbs: Fine words butter no parsnips

Implementation: Vanity Metrics are explicitly dealt with in the Lean Startup approach and the use of actionable metrics is favored.

See Also: Metrics, Inspect and Adapt