From: Info <info**At_Symbol_Here**>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Campbell’s Law: The Dark Side of Metric Fixation
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2021 11:22:40 -0500
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**Princeton.EDU>
Message-ID: FD6FAE99-7498-4EE0-9CF2-9FB261FA65C4**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <2FAB5959-5442-46F0-AF75-F777E0C90871**At_Symbol_Here**>

The specific safety metric I fear is campaigns to reduce the number of Reportable/Recordable Incidents to zero. Which means employees face pressure to NOT report an incident they might otherwise report.

Healthcare in the US is rife with metric darkness.  Insurance companies are a wall of metrics for denials. Medical providers routinely manipulate billing codes - here's  one particularly abusive example:  On the flip side, payment for service that looks at patient outcome to improve quality is a great idea and is showing some nice promise. However, even outcome metrics can be manipulated: 

No discussion of metric fixation is complete without mentioning Wells Fargo employees creating fake accounts to keep up with their cross-selling sales quota. :  Millions of people affected, billions of dollars and the repercussions keep on coming.

And don't get me started on Amazon warehouse work policies that encourage employees to sacrifice their mental and physical health:

Rob Toreki

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On Nov 8, 2021, at 10:44 AM, CHAS membership <membership**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG> wrote:

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=E2=80™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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