Campbell’s Law: The Dark Side of Metric Fixation

Summary: When organizations optimize metrics at the cost of all else, they expose themselves to metric corruption. Ultimately, as the Facebook scandal illustrates, they may fail their users and their business goals.

One of the most misquoted sayings in business is “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This statement (and its variations) is often meant to say that, to improve something, we need a precise metric that captures it and that should be tracked in order to understand if our efforts to improve it are effective.

It is interesting that this “quote” is actually the complete opposite of the original, which was:

“It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” — W. Edwards Deming ( The New Economics ).

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