Individual Competence vs. Organizational Efficiency LO28888

From: Terje A. Tonsberg (
Date: 07/24/02

Replying to LO28877 --

Hello Chris and LOers,

Chris Macrae said:
> Maybe he <Kohn>
> goes too far but equally let's been absolutely clear about the big picture
> of the transparency/responsibility debate - which goes far beyond the
> corrupt few to the awesome truth that almost all managers and leaders in
> large organisations have become culturally blinded by numbers

Maybe so, and your point is well taken, but the numbers are not the
problem. The problem is lack of a proper perspective on them. I don't
think this can be improved by throwing out the numbers. In fact, that
would probably make things much worse in most cases. You don't get rid of
ignorance by enforcing more of it. If someone can't put a number in a
proper perspective, how much would his perspective in general improve with
less numbers? They are still the same people, with the same cognitive
capacity and knowledge. In my experience, dealing with people who are too
focused on numbers is MUCH better than those who are uneasy with them.

Moreover, in education they are definitely not suffering from too many
numbers. While business has had accounting for centuries, and more
recently the Balanced Scorecard and the like to compensate for some of the
weaknesses, education has had none of the above. Measures are too
aggregate, too slow, too infrequent, too imprecise and have almost no role
in decision making. Haven't we all had tests at school where we were never
shown the result or analyzed weaknesses? (If there was such a thing as an
"understatement question" I guess this one would certainly qualify.)

Chris continues:
> One day darn soon all organisations ought to grow up in the following
> sense of the word. Every time a manager reaches for a number he or she
> also reaches for a relationship/system map. So business unit returned
> outstanding great numbers 4 compound quarters in a row - should they be
> celebrated/rewarded and the whole company ordered to learn from them or
> have they been straining the system either as corruptly as a business unit
> in Texas which brought down a Big 5 numbers firm or just by using up the
> trust or emotions of all sorts of stakeholders around them?

My comment:
This is a nice and a very typical example, as were the others you provided.
But remove the numbers and see if things get better....

I believe measurement is extremely important, but its limitations and
functions need to be well known in those who use them. If they don't then
the solution is not in removing the numbers, but in removing ignorance.

An important point though is that ignorance is not always the problem.
Quite often the problem is the dynamics of bureacratic advancement. In
this case, removing the numbers will also not help, because the incentives
will remain, but with even less checks.

By the way, if you want to read Kohn you can do so without contributing to
his destructive campaign purse (;-)) at:



"Terje A. Tonsberg" <>

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