From: CHAS membership <membership**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] CampbellÕs Law: The Dark Side of Metric Fixation
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2021 10:44:07 -0500
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**Princeton.EDU>
Message-ID: 2FAB5959-5442-46F0-AF75-F777E0C90871**At_Symbol_Here**

The article entitled Campbell‰??s Law: The Dark Side of Metric Fixation at
should be of central interest to people dealing with
1) safety in complex systems and
2) regulators who insist on specific metrics to demonstrate compliance
I suspect that many CHAS members fall in one or both of these categories.

Summary: When organizations optimize metrics at the cost of all else, they expose themselves to metric corruption. Ultimately, as the Facebook scandal illustrates, they may fail their users and their business goals.

One of the most misquoted sayings in business is ‰??if you can‰??t measure it, you can‰??t manage it‰??. This statement (and its variations) is often meant to say that, to improve something, we need a precise metric that captures it and that should be tracked in order to understand if our efforts to improve it are effective.

It is interesting that this ‰??quote‰?? is actually the complete opposite of the original, which was:

‰??It is wrong to suppose that if you can‰??t measure it, you can‰??t manage it ‰?? a costly myth.‰?? ‰?? W. Edwards Deming (The New Economics).

This difference between the original and the commonly used version highlights why it‰??s dangerous to rely on single metric to assess how well a business is performing: that one metric can be manipulated in ways unrelated to what it is supposed to measure. This is the phenomenon described by Campbell‰??s law.
The article does suggest some routes to addressing metric fixation in organizations.

- Ralph

Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Membership Chair
American Chemical Society Division of Chemical Health and Safety

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