Jerry Z. Muller


On his book The Tyranny of Metrics

Cover Interview of April 15, 2018

In a nutshell

We increasingly live in a culture of metric fixation: the belief of so many organizations that scientific management means replacing judgment based upon experience and talent with standardized measures of performance, and then rewarding or punishing individuals and organizations based upon those measures. The buzzwords of metric fixation are all around us: “metrics,” “accountability,” “assessment,” and “transparency.”

The Tyranny of Metrics treats metric fixation as the organizational equivalent of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Though often characterized as “best practice,” metric fixation is in fact often counterproductive, with costs to individual satisfaction with work, organizational effectiveness, and economic growth. The book helps explain why metric fixation has become so popular, why it is so often counterproductive, and why some people have an interest in promoting it. It is a book that analyzes and critiques a dominant fashion in contemporary organizational culture, with an eye to making life in organizations more satisfying and productive. It’s a book about management broadly construed. But unlike most authors who write about management, it also tries to see organizations from the perspective of the managed.