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What gets measured gets … on indicating, mobilizing and acting

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate the relationship underlying the often used adage "what gets measured gets managed". Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper starts by reviewing the critique of the adage and then testing it by surveying 109 managers from 41 organizations. The paper includes the idea of mobilizing in the adage in order to highlight that there are other factors than indicating, which affect acting. In the positive test the paper uses the linear structural relations (LISREL) method to analyze the data. Findings ‐ The paper finds that that the relationship between indicating and acting is not significant and that the introduction of mobilizing gives a better model fit. As a result the reformulation of the adage is: "What gets mobilized gets managed, especially if it gets measured". Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper shows that measuring is not per se a means to activate the organization. Rather, measurements support those issues that are already important in the organization. In practical terms, a reformulation could be: what gets talked about gets done, especially if there are numbers. Practical implications ‐ The contribution of this paper is twofold. First, it finds no significant relationship between indicating and acting; and second, it introduces mobilizing to explain the relationship between indicating and acting. Originality/value ‐ The paper scrutinizes the conventional wisdom encapsulated in the adage and by introducing mobilizing as an additional variable. The findings suggest that the adage needs to be reformulated.
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Keywords: Measurement; Organizations; Performance measures; Society; Sweden

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-07-31

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