The fallacy of “what gets measured gets managed” - Ness Labs - Deepstash
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"What gets measured gets managed": Where the quote came from

"What gets measured gets managed" is not only erroneously attributed to famous management consultant Peter Drucker, but it is also flawed.

The idea possibly came from a paper published in 1956 by V.F. Ridgway. He was pointing out that we should be more careful when using quantitative measures. The quote of journalist Simon Caulkin read: "What gets measured gets managed - even when it's pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation to do so."

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The problem with blind measurement

Blind measurement can lead to problems at the individual, corporate, and societal levels.

  • The wrong metrics can cause unintended consequences. For example, when the British government offered a bounty for every dead cobra in Delhi, enterprising started breeding cobra snakes to get the prize, leading to more cobras.
  • People are more than numbers. Much of a company's success relies on human factors that are sometimes impossible to measure, such as enthusiasm.
  • When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. When a goal is set, measures can distort incentives.

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Mindful measurement

While businesses do need metrics to measure their performance, performance indicators do not fit perfectly with a specific metric and should not be artificially forced to fit a measurement model.

Principles to help measure performance in a mindful way.

  • People-first management. Relationships cannot be measured or easily defined.
  • Metacognition. Periodically reflect on the way your current measurement systems impact the way you think and work.
  • Non-measurable performance indicators. Innovation, creativity, enthusiasm, expertise, etc. can't be measured.

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