06 July 2018

"The Tyranny of Metrics" by Jerry Muller

For almost as long as I have had a job, I have watched people use metrics to gauge performance. Many bosses live by the adage, "If you don't measure it, you can't improve it." For almost as long as I have had a job, I have struggled with the notion that everything of value can be measured and thus improved.

Muller's book puts that sentiment into writing. Sourcing detailed accounts of how articulate measurements often go awry from their intention. Muller quotes Marilyn Strathern's paraphrase of Goodhart's law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

In our race for efficiency, we often expect metrics to manage things rather than people, assuming metrics never lie but neglecting the fact metrics also only tell a very narrow piece of the story.

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