When you're presented with numbers you don't know if they are buckshot or accurate. You often assume the later when it is often the former.
You must often witness people plucking out of thin air, numbers such as budget estimates, estimates of probability and estimates of impact. It is very common because it takes time to get accurate. We often prefer the buckshot approach because we hit some part of the target. Unfortunately, the bigger the beast, the bigger the mistake to be firing buckshot.
My brother-in-law - who lives in the Yukon Territories of Canada - hunts annually for the family’s yearly meat supply. When he hunts large beasts like buffalo, he does not use buckshot. He relies on his finely-honed shooting skills and his precision equipment to down what is a massive animal. And he does it with one shot. Better for the animal and better for the quality of the meat.
In the past few weeks I have been speaking with my esteemed stats guru, friend and colleague who lectures at the University of Sydney Business School, Dr Andrew Pratley, about this tendency towards buckshot at the cost of accuracy. I raised with him the extent of Quantifornication (my word for the plucking of numbers out of thin air) that I see in business, in particular when people are trying to estimate really uncertain things. Like scenario planning during COVID!
Our discussion quickly turned to how easy it is to improve estimates in everyday business. Next thing you know we are on a mission to take on Quantifornication. Next week will be the start of a series co-written with Dr Pratley.
Stay safe and adapt – with better measurement!
Bryan's new book teaches you practical methods to cut through with your advice and make the impact you want to make. Available on Amazon or order here now.
Available on Amazon or order here now.
Bryan Whitefield works with strategic leaders across all sectors to help organisations harness uncertainty – uncertainty is the strategic leader’s best friend. He is the author of DECIDE: How to Manage the Risk in Your Decision Making and Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon. He is the designer of the Risk Culture: Build Your Tribe of Advocates Program for support functions and the Persuasive Adviser Program for internal advisers. Both can be booked individually or in-house. For more information about Bryan, please click here.