Dumbing down performance measures

Paul Walsh (Paul Walsh is Senior Lecturer at the Australian Graduate School of Management, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia.)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this paper is to examine why and how firms adopt less‐than‐perfect surrogate measures and, in extreme cases, dumb down measures to support strategic scorecards.


The paper presents a taxonomy to classify the different types of surrogate measures and workarounds are suggested for evaluating performance when surrogate measures are present.


The use of low investment surrogate measures is tempting when firms face the prospect of measuring strategic objectives, especially around intangible assets. Current approaches tend to be ad hoc and would benefit from being more systematic.

Practical implications

The approach enables firms to recognise the potential for dumb measures, suggest workarounds and improve current practice for managing with less relevant measures.


The taxonomy and workarounds presented provide greater rigour, insight and legitimacy to the use of surrogate measures in scorecards.



Walsh, P. (2005), "Dumbing down performance measures", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 37-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/13683040510634826

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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