"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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Problem Solving

The fallacy of “what gets measured gets managed” - Ness Labs


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.

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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