Management by Objectives was first popularized by Peter Drucker the most revered guru of American management in his 1954 book The Practice of Management. Management by objectives is the process of defining specific objectives within an organization that management can convey to organization members, then deciding on how to achieve each objective in sequence. This process is supposed to allow managers to take work that needs to be done one step at a time to in order to allow for a calm, yet productive work environment.
Dr. Deming wrote in his 14 points that he thought MBO was a bad idea and he was emphatically clear about this. About 15 years later, Drucker himself came around to the same point of view and recognized that MBO had failed. So, what did Deming find wrong with it and why does DevOps also discourage it?
Dr. Deming instead saw arbitrary objectives, unrelated to the purpose of the business, set without any plan on how to achieve them or even a means of taking accurate measurements. Deming sees MBO as “an attempt to manage without knowledge of what to do.” The managers focus on outcomes without looking into the processes (DevOps specifies that we look at processes via methods such as The Theory of Constraints) that produce them. Managers end up gaming metrics rather than improving processes, and playing management firefighting.