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Summary

How the obsession with quantifying human performance threatens our schools, medical care, businesses, and government

Today, organizations of all kinds are ruled by the belief that the path to success is quantifying human performance, publicizing the results, and dividing up the rewards based on the numbers. But in our zeal to instill the evaluation process with scientific rigor, we've gone from measuring performance to fixating on measuring itself. The result is a tyranny of metrics that threatens the quality of our lives and most important institutions. 

In this timely and powerful book, Jerry Muller uncovers the damage our obsession with metrics is causing and shows how we can begin to fix the problem. Filled with examples from education, medicine, business and finance, government, the police and military, and philanthropy and foreign aid, this brief and accessible book explains why the seemingly irresistible pressure to quantify performance distorts and distracts, whether by encouraging "gaming the stats" or "teaching to the test". That's because what can and does get measured is not always worth measuring, may not be what we really want to know, and may draw effort away from the things we care about. 

Along the way, we learn why paying for measured performance doesn't work, why surgical scorecards may increase deaths, and much more. But metrics can be good when used as a complement to - rather than a replacement for - judgment based on personal experience, and Muller also gives examples of when metrics have been beneficial. Complete with a checklist of when and how to use metrics, The Tyranny of Metrics is an essential corrective to a rarely questioned trend that increasingly affects us all.

©2018 Princeton University Press (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Brian K. Sohn
  • 23-10-18

Managers, Politicians, Please Read This!

As Muller says, there's nothing new here except for his cross-disciplinary compiling of how the use of metrics, accountability, and transparency are fulfilling Illich's promise that institutions eventually grow to a point where they counteract their original purpose. His use of tyranny is no exaggeration. Beginning with the personal story of how metrics ruined his work as a university department head, he follows the line through policing, medicine, schooling, and politics.

In my dream world, I could dump the information contained in this book into the heads of all the managers and politicians out there to counteract the terrible zeitgeist of measurement as the tool of bureaucratic decentralization.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful