“..and all of the children are above average”
Garrison Keillor uses this tag line to conclude his monologues on A Prairie Home Companion and it is funny because it lays out a common truth in an unusual way…we want to make things better than they can possibly be.
Well, I read a marvelous description of this tendency to misuse averages in a weblog I have grown to enjoy. Jeff Angus writes a blog that combines two of my very favorite subjects: business and baseball. Called Management by Baseball, Jeff writes long and insightful posts on management subjects, using baseball as the example. [If you like baseball, you’ll enjoy Jeff’s blog…if you are into art history, you probably won't. But if you are into art history, you are probably not reading this blog either J ]
In the piece I cite above, Jeff describes how three-fourths of baseball writers believe that their team will have a better record this year than last year. A statistical impossibility…as the sum of all wins and losses for all teams will always be equal. And thus, unless one or two teams are totally abysmal, only half the teams can improve…half will get worse.
All of the children can’t be above average.
A core practice in a Lean enterprise is to “Document Reality.” Dreams and hopes have a place; we live in reality. I do a disservice to my company and my colleagues by not capturing reality. Do capture some reality today. Look it square in the eye; write it down; ask what you can do about it.I hope this is helpful.