«The key components of metric fixation are the belief that it is possible – and desirable – to replace professional judgment (acquired through personal experience and talent) with numerical indicators of comparative performance based upon standardised data (metrics); and that the best way to motivate people within these organisations is by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance. The most dramatic negative effect of metric fixation is its propensity to incentivise gaming: take the case of surgeons. Some surgeons will improve their metric scores by refusing to operate on patients with more complex problems, whose surgical outcomes are more likely to be negative. Who suffers? The patients who don’t get operated upon. But metric fixation also leads to a variety of more subtle unintended negative consequences. These include goal displacement, the best-known example is ‘teaching to the test’, a widespread phenomenon that has distorted primary and secondary education in the United States. Short-termism is another negative. The expenditure of employee time by those tasked with compiling and processing the metrics. Attempts to measure productivity through performance metrics discourage initiative, innovation and risk-taking. At the same time, rewarding individuals for measured performance diminishes the social relationships that motivate co-operation and effectiveness. Instead, such rewards promote competition. The question that ought to be asked next, then, is to what extent the culture of metrics – with its costs in employee time, morale and initiative, and its promotion of short-termism – has itself contributed to economic stagnation?»
Segnaliamo l’articolo Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires di Jerry Z. Muller, pubblicato su Aeon. Dello stesso autore, segnaliamo anche il saggio The Tyranny of Metrics, Princeton University Press 2018.