How Would Santa Claus Measure His Performance?

by Stacey Barr |

Santa Claus is one amazing character.

To avoid disappointing any of the estimated 380 odd million Christian children in the world on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus needs to be capable of some pretty spectacular performances:

• Santa’s memory is so good, he can recall 380 million childrens’ Christmas wish lists.
• Santa visits about 970 households per second.
• To achieve this, his sleigh has to travel at over 1000 kilometres per second (3000 times the speed of sound).
• The sleigh’s payload (that is, the sack of toys) is estimated at being about 500,000 tonnes.
• Santa’s reindeer are each 40,000 times stronger and faster than the average ordinary reindeer.
• Santa’s reindeer, due to air resistance created by the astronomical speeds they travel, each absorb up to 14,300,000,000,000,000,000 joules of energy every second.
• Each time the sleigh takes off, Santa is subjected to 17,500 g of force (apparently the average human will black out at about 4 or 5 g).

This is an engineer’s perspective on Santa Claus, (you can read more at
//www.baltimoremd.com/humor/santaengineer.html) and it has been suggested that these calculations might be proof that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist. But that’s not the point of this month’s Handy Hint. These trivial statistics illustrate a few interesting points about performance measures…

Measuring Capability

Measuring what your organisation or process or team is capable of (modelled from past performance) can help you anticipate how likely you are to meet changing stakeholder needs. As the Christian population in the world grows, how much faster will Santa have to travel, and how much more will the sleigh have to carry, and how much more energy will the reindeer have to absorb? How many more toys will the elves have to make?
What kinds of toys will most influence the children of tomorrow to be nice and not naughty?

Measuring Outputs

Santa’s outputs are the results of his activities, what he produces. And what he produces is gifts delivered to Christian children that have been nice and not naughty. Measures of his outputs might include: the % of nice children that did receive a gift, the % of children that received the gift they requested, the % of children that received a gift they loved, the safe return of Santa and the reindeer to the North Pole sometime on Christmas morning.

Outputs are produced over and over again by our business processes, but for the purpose of making some bigger, ultimate set of outcomes happen.

Measuring Outcomes

Measuring activities and outputs might be interesting and easy, but we need to measure the ultimate set of outcomes of our activities and products if we care at all about what we are doing. Santa doesn’t do the Christmas Eve thing because it’s a challenge. He actually really wants to encourage children to be nice and not naughty (source:
//www.northpole.com/Clubhouse/Q&A/Santa.html) and he rewards those children being nice with gifts on Christmas Eve.

Santa’s ultimate outcome measure might be the percentage of children that always behave nicely. He might analyse trends in this information – he has years and years of history, as he’s been at it for around 1600 years (source: //www.oldandsold.com/articles01/article762.shtml).
Santa might also benchmark this measure against the motivators for non-Christian children to be nice and not naughty, to see how well his gift strategy is working.

Linking Outcome Measures to Capability Measures

There is a logical connection among these three types of measures. The capability measures predict the quality of the outputs, and the quality of the outputs predict the quality of the outcomes. If Santa’s elves make the right kinds of toys, then more children will get the gift they want and thus, more children will be influenced by Santa’s message to be nice and not naughty.

Have a very safe, incredibly happy and gorgeously relaxing Christmas Holiday Season! And hopefully that *won’t* be a challenge!

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