Can you count up to 8?

Do you produce loads of whizzy hard performance data?

I bet if you do you use one of these clever whizzy performance applications to showcase your wares…

There’s lots of different types of these things, and an even larger number of people who use them, they like them, they think they’re the bees knees.

Being a contrarian systems thinker I don’t. I think these are symptoms of command and control management. They are not good things, but resultant things.  Symptoms.

In themselves they are neutral. Just bits, literally, of zeroes and ones that produce snazzy graphics to gawk at. But they are part of something, and that something is how large ordinary command and control organisations manage.

Command and control organisations (ie most of ’em) separate decision making from the work. They do this by making these two things (decisions about the work and the carrying out of work itself) be done by entirely different sets of people.

You know, like this…


So if those at the pointy triangle end are going to make decisions, they’d better be making decisions based on pieces of paper.

Which instead of paper is these days likely instead to be a screen, totally full of coloured muck like this….

Which is why this rot exists.
Because nobody knows what they should be looking at or why, not really, they default to stuff that looks clever. Merely having clever things like the above is a substitute for doing clever things. Like buying a book and not reading it, or going to university.

Those pointy-end-dwellers are to be pitied. It is not their fault, it is the system they are in. But because they go in a room and look at screens purporting to show the world outside that room, there is a bit of a disconnect. They could be looking at anything, and they often are. Whatever seems PERFORMANCEY.

There’s a word “truthiness that describes something that possesses the feeling of truth, something that you would personally WANT to be true, regardless of it being true at all.

Well I think that a lot of this stuff produced is performancey.  This is somethinig that looks like performance data, cos its all bar charts and that, but it actually isn’t.

All the stuff above despite being called performance dashboards are actually just performancey. They aren’t the right measures, shown the right way. They are facsimiles of performance measures that grant the illusion of performance. They are performancey.

I think a solid rule of thumb is that the more something tries to persuade you that it IS a thing, whatever that thing is, the less likely it actually IS to be that thing.

These dashboards go to immense lengths to swagger around looking performancey, this shows to me that they aren’t.

A chart drawn in the dirt with a stick would persuade me more.

That’s why I’m a fan of this man here….

He is Davis Balestracci and I’m rudely summarising him as a Demingy/Shewharty/ Donald Wheeler-ish kind of guy. The sort you need to read books and columns and that, because he knows his stuff. About data!

One of the things he says is you DON’T NEED all this complicated stuff and therefore you don’t need to know all the techy stuff that sits behind it, to produce it.

Instead, can you do the following….

  • Counting up to “8”
  • Subtract two numbers
  • Sort a list of numbers
  • Multiply two numbers
  • Ask better questions!
  • React appropriately to variation

Cos that’s all you need if you want to look at simple run charts and find out if there’s been any change in a process.

And that’s all you need do to make a control chart to find out how a process is likely to behave now and in the future.

I bet loads of people could do the above, given half a chance.

No need for coloured tat.  All that’s needed is the ability to count up to 8.


NB you REALLY should google Davis Balestracci stuff, he’s got lots online, he’s funny and simple and useful.  I’ll be trying very hard not to outright steal his stuff and reference it properly, but if I forget, remember to google Davis Balestracci cos he knows what he’s talking about and I rarely do.

This entry was posted in data, deming, statistics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Can you count up to 8?

  1. Balestracci is the most helpful person. Just the other day I asked for hos advice on an issue with Statistical Process Control, and within a few hours he had sent me links to relevant articles and a bunch of his own SPC Excel macros. Much like Donald Wheeler and Deming himself, Balestracci is a No Nonsense kind of guy.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Ha! Wow, that’s a coincidence.
      Sounds like a STAND UP GUY.
      I downloaded loads of his stuff and am ploughing through it, it’s very well written. Interesting useful AND funny. How unlikely for stuff on “statistics”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark says:

        Thats what happens when a ‘systemsy person’ truly gets statistics. They realise how useless most statistics are. Just fancy and fancier ways to ‘notice’ if there’s a difference between figure A and figure B.

        Like Davis says, “just plot the dots”, its the most profound things anyone can do with data, and will lead to the biggest leaps in learning.


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