Sunday, September 25, 2016

Actually, you can't measure it

We're told repeatedly: you can't manage what you can't measure. Or, you can measure anything -- everything

Actually, you can't

Measurements do the changing
There are may project domains where measurements change the thing being measured, so that the results are incorrect, sometimes dramatically so:
  • Many chemical reactions or chemistry attributes
  • Some biological effects
  • Most quantum effects
  • Most very-high or ultra-high frequency systems (VHF and UHF, to extend to micro and millimeter wave systems)
  • Some optical effects
 And, of course, many human behaviors and biases are themselves biased by measurement processes

Intangibles et al
Not be left out: the affects and effects of intangibles, like leadership, empathy, the art of communication, and others. Not directly measureable, their impact is a matter of inference. Typically: imagine the situation without these influences; imagine the situation with them. The difference is as close to a measurement -- if you can call it that -- that you'll get.
Which all leaves the project where?
  • Inference and deduction based on observable outcomes which are downstream or isolated or buffered from the instigating effects 
  • Statistical predictions that may not be inference or deduction
  • Bayes reasoning, which is all about dependent or conditioned outcomes
  • Simulations and emulations
Bottom line: don't buy into the mantra of "measure everything". Measuring may well be more detrimental than no measurements at all

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