This book is really about the dangers of obsessing on the relationship between measurement and improvement. The fixation stems from an old idea that “what gets measured, gets done” and has evolved into “anything that can be measured can be improved”. There are three key components to metric fixation: replacing judgement and experience with data, making data public for transparency, and to motivate by paying for performance. The implementation of metric fixation is extremely dangerous in public welfare organizations like schools, medical care and the government, because not all things that matter are counted. However, there are useful ways to use metrics without them becoming dysfunctional obsessions or tools for manipulation.


In a world full or data, this is likely the most controversial area in my profession. Not only is my performance measured by metrics, I am usually responsible for reporting results. Inherently, I would prefer to seek out data that supports a story of improvement – and most are designed to show just that. When the numbers don’t tell the whole story, I use a narrative and imagery to fill in the blanks. And when something doesn’t work, I view it as an opportunity to improve our strategy.

Muller, J.Z. (2018). Chapters 1 – The Argument in a Nutshell. In The Tyranny of Metrics (pp.17-21). Princeton University Press.