What's Measured Gets Managed

May 29, 2021

Complexity needs to be managed. Luckily, software was made to be measured. And what gets measured, gets managed.

Measurement is evolving. It isn't just running offline queries to populate dashboards. It's recreating entire user sessions to capture experience issues. It's monitoring application health and requests in real-time. Even people management has taken a similar approach, with radical candor and instant performance feedback.

Now there are skeptics on measurement. Goodhart's Law says that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Stories of good meaning goal setting have had the complete opposite effect (look up the "Cobra Effect"). But these arguments are never a knock against measurement itself, but rather how we use that data. Without measurement, we wouldn't even know the negative effects of these misaligned incentives.

It may seem like everything is already measured. But occasionally, someone will describe something to me "as an art". To me, that signals that there's an opportunity for measurement.