***Warning – if you are a small child do not read all the way to the end of this post***
Well it must be that festive time of year again as all things Christmassy are starting to appear everywhere around me. Yes, it’s September. Hideous chocolate abominations festooning the shelves of the local supermarket, impenetrable and disturbing perfume adverts on TV, and this sort of thing in the pub>>>
Apart from my irritation with this premature obsession with something that’s still months away (let’s face it, Easter eggs will probably be on the shelves sometime around New Year’s Eve as well), there’s also one of those ‘hidden’ systems messages that jumps out at me from this sign.
In an apparent effort to maximise sales in the run-up to the big day, this pub has inadvertently shot itself in the foot by introducing an arbitrary numerical target of 14 into the equation.
I reckon the place could seat about 45-50 people, so that’s three groups of 14 per night with a few extra seats in case of larger groups. Do you reckon they’ll get nice, neat groups of 14 slotting neatly into the schedule throughout the 23 days that this policy runs for? I’ll stand to be proven wrong, but I doubt it. No, what will happen will be that potential customers who can only organise groups of 13 or less will go elsewhere. D’Oh!
In addition to this, my guess is that the place will be largely empty between 1st and 23rd December because those customers who like to go in there in pairs or in small family groups will be temporarily excluded. What a #fail.
You see, the introduction of the arbitrary numerical target creates an invisible and artificial boundary between what is and isn’t acceptable. By designating a cut-off point without due regard to unintended consequences, this is like trying to tessellate a Tetris matrix with really big and unusually-shaped tiles.
The most effective way of populating a space equipped to handle 45-50 hypothetical units is to break down restrictions, not introduce them. You might still get three groups of 14 on any given night – that’s great – but on other nights you might get one group of 14 plus several groups of twos and threes. Surely that’s better than just the group of 14 and a bunch of empty tables.
In this type of case, I believe that deregulation is the way forward as it enables the system to absorb variety much more effectively. It also allows for the system to be more responsive to demand and reduces the likelihood of unintended consequences (i.e. loss of customers and revenue). Furthermore it reduces waste, as those empty tables (or blank white squares) are easy to fill by allowing smaller groups (or tiles).
Anyway, that’s just me.
On a separate note, but sticking with the Christmas theme because we’re already two whole days out of summer, I’ve noticed that when I tell some people all numerical targets are arbitrary and no numerical target is immune from causing dysfunctional behaviour, (I should copyright that phrase!) sometimes I observe reactions not dissimilar to that which would be expected if I were to go and tell a bunch of very young children that Father Christmas does not exist:
So, if you spread the word about the targets problem, be prepared for that person who sticks their fingers in their ears, goes ”La la la, I’m not listening!”, and desperately continues to believe in what they cling to, despite all the evidence. They probably aren’t a bad person – you’ve just exposed them to something which rocked them to the core.
Hopefully, they’ll get over it. Maybe even Father Christmas might bring them a copy of Intelligent Policing this year to help them do so.