Performance Perspectives Blog

Attribution is part of our daily lives

by | Dec 19, 2012

When I teach our fundamentals of performance or attribution classes, I often mention how we adopt ideas from other segments of society. Measuring performance, for example, is found in many areas, with sports perhaps being the most thorough (with baseball leading the way).

Attribution, too, is found in many places. Police departments conduct attribution when attempting to ascertain the cause(s) of an accident, and fire departments do the same when investigating a fire.

The recent horrific massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School is causing a rash of attribution analysis, as the contributing causes are being analyzed. How much did mental illness play a part, should gun control laws be examined, does violence on television lead to violence in real life, etc.? And just as performance attribution is controversial, so are many of these discussions.

I’m conducting a study which demonstrates how some approaches to performance attribution or flawed, and can lead to incorrect conclusions (an article summarizing preliminary results will be published shortly). This, in spite of the fact that we’re talking numerical attribution. In the case of analyzing a crime, much of the work will be subjective, which can be influenced by various factors, including political and public pressure. To avoid flaws in the results, objectivity must be complete and the evaluation unbiased.

David Kopel wrote an interesting piece in Monday’s WSJ titled “Guns, Mental Illness, and Newton.” He points out how we’ve seen a significant increase in random mass shootings over the past 30 years. Some are quick to “rush to judgement,” while many admit they “haven’t a clue.” President Obama wants action taken to make these events an impossibility, which is admirable and something we all would support, though how realistic this goal is is yet to be determined.

My heart continues to ache for those who died and the loved ones they left behind. The attribution analysis has begun, and hopefully action can be taken to reduce the risks of similar attacks taking place.

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