Measuring Performance Stymies Organizational Intimacy

Metrics are used as a substitute for the close personal relationships or intimate knowledge within organizations as well. They help leadership feel as though they know or understand complex organizations without needing to understand the full breadth and depth of activities of those below them on the corporate ladder. Measurement is believed to help overcome the “bounded rationality” of leaders of complex organizations, who cannot possibly understand the full breadth and depth of activities below them on the corporate ladder. Quantified measurement helps avoid the need for managers to have close familiarity with an organization or institution they run; this suits the need of both management consulting (which helped promulgate the gospel of scientific management) and managers themselves, who can more easily move between companies and industries as a result.

This supports—and likely contributes to—shorter tenures at companies, which, thanks to a uniform set of benchmarks and measures, can be treated interchangeably; as well, it suits the needs of management consultants who can be brought in as supposedly objective observers of the organization.

They also serve to bring into line employees who cannot be trusted to put the needs of shareholders or profitability above their own; in this sense, the metrics function as a proxy for a kind of social contract.

This contributes to a general decline in trust, and may change how we relate to our work.



Muller - The Tyranny of Metrics