peteg's blog - noise - quotes - 2007 02 25 McNamaraFallacy

The McNamara Fallacy.

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Gernot has had this quote on his homepage for as long as I remember:

The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can't be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can't be measured easily really isn't important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can't be easily measured really doesn't exist. This is suicide.

I've tried to source it. Of course "McNamara" is Robert S. McNamara, famous for his attempts to run the Vietnam War on "rational" grounds by, for example, seeking advice from game theorists. As for the words themselves, I can only find them expressed in Charles Handy's The Age of Paradox (p221, 1994, first published as The Empty Raincoat in Britain).