The Qualimetrics Approach - Observing the Complex Object
Continuing the commitment of the research in management consulting series to recapture and revisit past works as a complement to our exploration of emerging trends, innovative perspectives, and new insights into the world of management consulting, this volume is a translation and modest updating of Henri Savall and Véronique Zardet’s original work on the “qualimetrics” approach, initially published in French in 2004. Much like we have done with Savall and Zardet’s other works – Mastering Hidden Costs and Socio-Economic Performance (2008) and Work and People (2010) – and underlying goal is to continue to enhance our insights into the complexities and nuances associated with organizational life, helping to create a more comprehensive foundation for our insights into, work with, and intervention in organizations.

The impetus for this work emerged from savall’s belief that there is a double-loop interaction between social and economic factors in organizations, between behaviors and structures, and between the quality of life in organizations and their economic performance. When managers underestimate this dynamic interaction, the resulting tension ultimately manifests in lowered performance and increased costs, what he refers to as the “hidden costs” of organizational dynamics can we hope to fully understand – and create the basis for improving – organizational performance.

The qualimetrics Approach presents a different and challenging way of thinking about analyzing organizations, one that draws together quantitative information, financial analysis and qualitative insights into organizational dynamics. As Savall and Zardet argue, to gain a true understanding of what is happening in organizations, intervener-researchers must focus on all three perspectives, as ignoring any one of them will lead to incomplete understandings. Their approach underscores the importance of using qualitative data to validate quantitative depictions (“the numbers”) of organizational performance in understanding the construction of financial statements. The strength of Savall and Zardet’s approach is that it pushes us to go deeper, to fully understand the narratives underlying the numbers and the social construction of our financial assessments.