…and a pebble in the hand of a fool. These are not my words, but those of Joseph Roux, a French Catholic parish priest, poet, and philologist.

In this post, I’ll share a collection of quotations related to evaluation. Now, I’m hardly the first blogger to post of list of favorite quotes. Admittedly, though, I spend more time collecting writing than producing it, although I do love engaging in the latter. And in thinking back to an early post in which I studied reasons other evaluation bloggers blog, I remembered that several do so to create a repository of their work and ideas. As I’m a collector/curator at heart, this blog will soon become my repository. 

More important than innate disposition, objective experience, and environment is the subjective evaluation of these. Furthermore, this evaluation stands in a certain, often strange, relation to reality.

-Alfred Adler

There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.

-Maya Angelou

Evaluate what you want — because what gets measured, gets produced.

-James Belasco

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.

-Winston Churchill

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.

-Albert Einstein

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.

-W. Edwards Deming

In God we trust, all others bring data.

-W. Edwards Deming

The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.

-Peter Drucker

Feelings are more dangerous than ideas, because they aren’t susceptible to rational evaluation. They grow quietly, spreading underground, and erupt suddenly, all over the place.

-Brian Eno

I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.

-Benjamin Franklin

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

-Milton Friedman

What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.

-John E. Jones

Without a standard there is no logical basis for making a decision or taking action.

-Joseph M. Juran

You get what you measure. Measure the wrong thing and you get the wrong behaviors.

-John H. Lingle

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

-Carl Sagan

The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.

-George Bernard Shaw

When dealing with numerical data, approximately right is better than precisely wrong.

-Carl G. Thor

First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure.

-Mark Twain

Continuous improvement requires systematic evaluation. Continuous improvement requires unfiltered evaluation.


My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts!


We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don’t it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions.

-Jessamyn West

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.

-Oscar Wilde

Any measurement must take into account the position of the observer. There is no such thing as measurement absolute, there is only measurement relative.

-Jeannette Winterson

qthomasbower diamondWith a few clicks around the web, I’m sure you can unearth many more! I left out some favorites related to data, measurement, assessment, research, and the like (future lists are in the making perhaps?). Now, back to Joseph Roux and the title of this post. A fine quotation is a diamond… 

A pithy quote can inspire us, compel us into action, challenge or confirm our thinking, and stimulate our conversations. I’ll start the conversation with one of my favorites: True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information. These words attributed to Winston Churchill resonate with me as I characterize evaluation work as “messy.” Mine is not the most erudite description to be sure, but it gets the point across. Churchill, of course, was possessed of the power of eloquence.

Will you continue the conversation by identifying your favorite quote, or adding one to the list?