Mattering and measurement

I have found this quote by William Edwards Deming to be widely shared by “improvement scientists” involved in healthcare:without data

My concerns about this aphorism are on a number of levels:

  • Implicitly it reduces subjective experience and thus the person.
  • Implicitly it is stating only that which is measurable is important.
  • Science is based on method and observation; this is then recorded in words (‘labels’ if you like) and this is then converted into numbers (data). At each stage there is a representational loss of actual experience.
  • It lacks philosophical understandings of reality. What I mean is that it is impossible for numbers to fully represent reality.
  • Healthcare is not the same as engineering [the original context of this quote]
  • In reality there is no clear divide between objectivity and subjectivity. Science strives to be objective but cannot do this simply by ignoring the subjective.



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