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Be Careful What You Measure, It Might Improve

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Be careful what you measure, it might improve is a well known business axiom that suggests that performance measurements often have unintended consequences. This is rooted in the idea that managers tend to improve what is measured by making tradeoffs that can prove costly. If you measure quality, costs may increase. If you measure risk, profits may drop as business strategies become too conservative. If you measure costs, quality may decline and risks may increase.
The axiom is associated with the idea that measurements be carefully designed to reflect strategic tradeoffs such as revenue, cost, quality, risk, customer satisfaction, competition, ethics and compliance. It is also associated with the idea that it's dangerous to replace human judgement with measurement.
Overview: Be Careful What You Measure
Type
Business Axiom
Meaning
Unbalanced measurements produce unintended consequences.
Origin
Modeled on the proverb "be careful what you wish for, you might get it" that can be traced back to the 560 BC work by Aesop entitled The Old Man and Death with the phrase "We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified."
Variations
What gets measured, gets managed.
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