Measure and Mismeasure of Man

Regarding a Tenure decision, Richard H. Thaler remarked

“What his résumé lacked was five bad papers.” By that, he meant that while the candidate had published several papers containing enough genuinely important ideas to satisfy any rational hiring committee — more than could be said of most faculty members — he had too few to satisfy the bean counters, who fretted about how uninformed outsiders might react to the appointment.

HT to Tyler Cohen, http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/03/sentences-to-ponder-41.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/business/college-costs-are-rising-amid-a-prestige-chase.html?_r=1&src=tp

Data and facts do not live entirely alone, but within the context of other facts. Decisions using measures without context can lead to management dysfunction as described in Robert Austins book Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations .

That is not to suggest that using measurement to make decisions is wrong! On the contrary. But getting the whole story takes some work. It is also quite a bit of work to explain just what a measure means. It is no wonder people distrust being measured, they are afraid of how the measure might be used against them.

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About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
This entry was posted in Measurement. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Measure and Mismeasure of Man

  1. Pat Gaffney says:

    Context is KEY for anybody who’s serious about applying any analytical thought to a certain situation. Thanks for reminding us of the obvious (a trait of any good consultant, eh?)

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