Name that citation please!
July 23, 2009 3:01 AM   Subscribe

Original citation for the quote "What gets measured gets managed?"

This is often attributed to Peter Drucker, but we've seen it attributed to other names informally (Welch, et al).

Can anyone provide an academic citation; e.g., book or journal title, date, etc for this quote? Lots of web sites present the quote, but none (that we've looked at) cite the source. Its just one of those things that "everyone knows".

Not convinced Drucker originally said it. And even if he did, we can't find a citation.
posted by Mrs Mutant to Education (10 answers total)
A search on Google Books has several sources pointing to a 1996 paper by LSE prof. Willcocks which is part of Beyond the IT Productivity Paradox. Can't get farther than that, but that may help.
posted by vacapinta at 3:30 AM on July 23, 2009

Response by poster: I think we are able to find the quote in quite a few papers and books which deal with things that are difficult to measure like the value of IT but where did it originate? I think it must be older than 1996.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 4:02 AM on July 23, 2009

Best answer: Sorry, i wasnt clear. Its not that the phrase appears in that paper. its that that paper is quoted as the source of this quote:

While solutions have been sought to the axiom "what gets measured gets managed", (Willcocks and Lester 1996),

We would argue that issues concerning measurement — 'what gets measured gets managed' (Willcocks and Lester 1996)

"Measurement is a critical part of evaluation and as Willcocks [1996 p.2] graphically states: “what gets measured gets managed” from an LSE PHd Thesis
posted by vacapinta at 4:08 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Excellent :-). Thanks Vacapinta.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 4:35 AM on July 23, 2009

The above papers are actually failing to cite the 1985 book "The Greatest Management Principle in the World" by Michael Labeouf. The original phrase is "The things that get measured are the things that get done."
posted by bfranklin at 6:08 AM on July 23, 2009

Respectfully, bfranklin, the (apparent) meaning of the Labeouf quote you mention seems substantially different from the one Mrs Mutant is trying to track down.
posted by onshi at 6:25 AM on July 23, 2009

Response by poster: The question is largely resolved because I do now have an academic resource for the quote (and a new angle to my literature review).

Although it would be interesting to find out the whole story. I was reading this practitioners book on the IT Value stack and the author used the quote as "If it cannot be measured it cannot be managed" as being a widely accepted aphorism and I wondered why doesn't he refer to Peter Drucker?

There maybe is a paper/book out there that does critique Labeouf's work and led to this particular quote.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 7:48 AM on July 23, 2009

Pardon me, but "What gets measured gets managed?" seems but an alliterative paraphrase of Lord Kelvin's famous "If you can not measure it, you can not improve it."
posted by paulsc at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Very interesting Lord Kelvin's quote. Thinking in my organizational IT context however adding a measurement like Service Level Agreements or lines of code may not necessarily considered an improvement so maybe safer to say "managed". Could well be the original source though.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2009

paulsc pointed me to a possible source: Lord Kelvin.

"To measure is to know."
posted by IAmBroom at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2009

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