Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What He Said

John Cole documents -- in one really good post -- what I was trying to say in several crappy ones.

Also - before I forget - I keep meaning to get in a word on the latest Iraq GAO report. The term "benchmark" is being tossed about a lot in this report (Iraq having achieved 3, made progress on 4, and missed 11). I think they have their terms mixed up. A milestone is used when measuring progress against a fixed point in a plan (we use this in project management all the time). A benchmark provides a data point in a comparative study that can be used to determine a standard, or to compare performance against a standard.

To say, as the GAO report does, that "The Iraqi Government Has Not Met Most Legislative, Security, and Economic Benchmarks" seems like a misapplication of the term. "Benchmark" is a soft term indicating a performance data point in a comparative study. You don't fail to meet a benchmark; you fail to meet a standard set by a benchmark. There is no preset standard in Iraq.

The more appropriate term is "milestone", since Iraq's performance against the fixed objectives it set in 2006 is what's being measured. But "milestone" really does carry with it a pass/fail implication: either you make your milestones or you don't. I assume that's the judgement someone was trying to avoid by switching terms.


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