What Counts and What Gets Counted
216 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2014 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018
Date Written: January 18, 2016
Management reporting systems are like power tools. They help you improve performance quickly and effectively, but one careless moment can cause irreparable damage and serious injury. For years, my students have been asking permission to send this book of best practices and safety tips to colleagues, friends and family. This revision provides a comprehensive introduction to management reporting systems, complete with links to nearly 100 videos, written to be appropriate for students and practitioners of any background, across all areas where people organize their efforts to improve performance. Examples include business, charities, governmental agencies, education, sports, and family life. Each of its 28 essays can be read separately, making the book well-suited to use as supplemental reading.
Drawing extensively from current research and classical philosophy, the book encourages both deep skepticism about performance measures and pragmatic recognition of how useful they can be. Thoughtless adherence to performance measures leads many to decry "bean counters," and emphasize that "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." Yet something gets counted whenever we need to make critical decisions throughout the workplace, politics and daily life.
This book will help readers interpret the performance measures generated by the managerial reporting systems most pervasive in modern organizations, design systems that generate more useful measures, and make better use those measures — even though what gets counted often paints a misleading picture of what counts.
Keywords: managerial reporting, accounting, performance reporting, measurement, economics, compensation, strategy, Balanced Scorecard, Two-Stage Costing, Standard Costing, Death Spiral
JEL Classification: A1, A2, D2, D7, L2, M4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation