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Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Let's Measure Something Meaningless

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Imagine that the government decided an intake of 2.500 calories per day should be the maximum for each person, regardless of age, gender, health, metabolism, dietary habits, etc. And imagine that the government also measured and enforced this every day, claiming it is “for your own health”, and handing out daily fines for each person who went over target. How would you feel about this practice?

Now imagine that the government decided that a speed of 130 km/hours should be the maximum for each driver, regardless of age, health, mental condition, road condition, traffic condition, weather condition, or the condition of their cars. And imagine that the government measured and enforced this, claiming it is “for your own safety”, and handing out fines to anyone who went over this “target”. How would you feel about that? Oh, wait… this is an actual practice in many countries!

I drove 14 hours from Bologna to Brussels yesterday, with a proper break every 2 hours, good nutrition, a healthy mind, a well-serviced car, and an excellent track record as a driver. During that trip I saw people not using their indicator lights when switching lanes, people overtaking others on the emergency lane, people using their mobile phones, and people driving vehicles that barely deserved the name “car”. And among those many thousands of drivers, I’m sure there were also some with mental problems, physical problems, mechanical problems, etc. However, the one who got picked out by the government was me. I got flashed twice because I drove “too fast”.

For every complex goal, there is a metric that is clear simple and wrong.

In organizations we see this all the time. Managers have a goal, such as faster time-to-market or higher productivity. But productivity is a very complex thing. It depends on motivation, creativity, innovation, collaboration, etc. And managers can’t measure all that stuff easily. So they reduce the metric to the simplest possible thing that can be measured with a computer: the number of hours people are physically at the office. And then they turn it into a target: the computer requires at least 8! Or else…

Measuring something meaningful is hard, so let’s measure something that is meaningless but easy.

Measuring real safety on the streets for everyone is next to impossible, so the government reduces it to the simplest possible metric that can be delegated to computers: speed.

I fear the day when governments find a way to have computers measure our daily intake of calories.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)