The characteristic feature of the culture of accountability is the aspiration to replace judgment with standardized measurement. Judgment is understood as personal, subjective, and self-interested; metrics are supposed to provide information that is hard and objective.
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But, in many cases, the extension of standardized measurement may suffer diminished utility and even become counterproductive if sensible pragmatism gives way to metric madness. Measurement can readily become counterproductive when it tries to measure the unmeasurable and quantify the unquantifiable, whether to determine rewards or for other purposes.
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Accountability by metrics imposes a simplification not only of goals but of knowledge. In [James C.] Scott’s insightful formulation, metrics and performance indicators, like many forms of cost-benefit analysis, “manage, through heroic assumptions and an implausible metric for comparing incommensurate variables, to produce a quantitative answer to thorny questions. They achieve impartiality, precision, and replicability at the cost of accuracy.”
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Many matters of great importance are too subject to judgment and interpretation to be solved by standardized metrics. In recent decades, too many politicians, business leaders, policymakers, and academic officials have lost sight of that distinction.
A lot to recognize in this article. On this topic, more to come.