Friday, 26 April 2019

The McNamara Fallacy

Someone put this up on the comments thread following my article in the Guardian this week:

"The McNamara fallacy (also known as quantitative fallacy[1]), named for Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, involves making a decision based solely on quantitative observations (or metrics) and ignoring all others. The reason given is often that these other observations cannot be proven.

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.

— Daniel Yankelovich "Corporate Priorities: A continuing study of the new demands on business." (1972)"