Thursday, June 4, 2009

Perverse Effects of Business Metrics

Please think about this:
[T]here is a tendency to fall back on what is easiest to measure and to count, i.e. outputs, even if they are less important than outcomes. The danger of this, however, is to negate the major purpose of results-based reform, which is to refocus efforts on what citizens and society ultimately gain from government.

From OECD article paragraph 25.


  1. Hm. Definitely outcomes are more important, from a citizen point of view--and probably from a management point of view--than the dreaded "outputs">

    How does this distinction address the link between processes and "outcomes"? I ask because often it's the processes of change and transition which shape people's experiences, whereas outcomes are often only how we can talk about it post facto.



  2. The lived experience of citizens is where the "profits" reside for non-profits and the public sector. Notwithstanding, management's attention is often on the things that are easily measured, like processes and transactions, because that's what they have to report on since the business is modeled after the private sector in these respects. Implications for bureacracy: Bureaucracy.

  3. This is very close to where we're moving in University management, where "the student experience" is valued as a key differentiator when students pay fees and have choice about their destinations.

    We end up reducing it to KPIs partly because we're modelling the private sector, but partly because--as my quant research-driven line manager reminds me--qualitative description of experience isn't objective and generalizable.

    There's a research bias at work, as well as creeping private-sector-ism.