What We Are Reading
December 2020

The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Z. Muller

“What gets measured gets done” quoted Tom Peters in 1982’s In Search of Excellence, and so the practice of motivating executives by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance became good talent management. Author Muller argues the advantages of accountability metrics have been oversold and their costs underappreciated. Much like standardized testing teaching students how to cram, but not how to reason, corporate metrics encourage leaders to focus on what can most easily be measured at the expense of achievements more difficult to quantify (e.g., generating new ideas, collaborating, developing subordinates, etc.) Muller contends that metrics cannot replace the “informed judgement” of experienced managers and their ability to “think ahead and decide.” But he downplays the common shortcuts and blind spots involved in human judgement, and ignores recent quantum leaps in A.I. and machine-learning data-crunching - all which may weaken his arguments. While Muller may fall short in making a full case for judgement over metrics, he succeeds in reminding us of how we must undertake the difficult job of using both judiciously.

HIGHLIGHT(S): There is nothing wrong with rating people on a scale. The problems arise when the scale is too one-dimensional, measuring only what can easily be standardized, or when the rating is tied to pay-for-performance, which inevitably leads to gaming the system. Therefore, 360s need to be well-designed, honest and CONFIDENTIAL.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Tyranny-Metrics-Jerry-Z-Muller/dp/0691191913/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+tyranny+of+metrics&qid=1605900570&sr=8-2

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