You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

John Linder Former Congressman
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You can’t manage what you don’t measure is an old axiom that has been used in MBA programs since academics discovered that they could make a very good living telling business students how to do what they’ve never done themselves.

When those MBA graduates leave business school they will discover that much of what works in terms of meeting the needs of your customers and much of what is truly valuable in the growth of your company cannot be measured. It is more often intuited. You can’t teach that.

Our federal government is the largest “measuring” organization in the world. This huge database gives energetic bureaucrats tools to manage our lives.

The Labor Department also gathers large amounts of economic data for public consumption. The release of that data may give the Labor Department a sense of fulfillment, but other than serving as springboards for computerized trading in the stock market it serves no useful purpose.

I cannot imagine a single business decision that is taken based on unemployment statistics or the GDP or any other government data point. Business decisions are based on sales, profits, the ability to capitalize growth and the ability to deliver.

Indeed, much of the data presented with such fanfare is nothing more nor less than political tools. For example, we have redefined “unemployment” to conclude that the 94 million not employed have stopped looking for work. Thus they are not considered “looking for work” and we can say our “unemployment rate” is below 5 percent.

We make adjustments to the Gross Domestic Product based on subjective assessments that explain away difficult numbers for political purposes.

I have paid attention to the GDP since it was called the GNP. The first quarter of last year was the first time I can recall the number being explained away because of the weather. It seems that the unusually cold weather kept consumers indoors, reducing consumption that hurt the GDP.

Having grown up 90 miles south of International Falls, Minnesota I found that strange. I found it even stranger when that cold snap was blamed on Global warming.

Both the bogus GDP explanation and the Global Warming cause are of a piece with the desire of government bureaucrats to shape our lives. They know a lot about us and our environment and they believe they can make it better.

The new Labor Secretary should go into office prepared to dramatically reduce the data they collect and then abolish that agency. It serves no useful purpose.

This will not set well unions of course, but they are irrelevant relics of a distant past. The only growth area for unions is government and they are less collective bargaining units than political ones.

They have elected city councils in major cities across the country. The council then pays them back by enriching employee benefits by reducing the number of years that the benefit is based on from the average of the highest 5 years to 3 years and then to 2 years. This has no impact on next year’s budget, but a huge impact on next decade’s budget. Most major cities are bankrupt because of this.

At the federal level we are losing control of policy to the public employees unions. The entire IRS scandal was a union operation protecting its political base and union bosses had as much to do with drafting Obamacare, through the regulatory process, as did members of Congress.

If President Trump wants to make fundamental change in how government impacts the lives of average Americans, here is a good place to start.

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