Have a go at the challenge below. In each case, select answer ‘a’ or answer ’b’ in response to the question, “Which is better?”
a) “Can I have a cup of tea please?”
b) “Can I have 61% of a cup of tea please?”
a) “Make sure you do your homework”.
b) “Make sure you do your homework 80% of the time”.
a) “I insist my water bill is accurate”.
b) “I insist my water bill is 79% accurate”.
a) “Catch burglars”.
b) “Catch burglars in 18% of cases”.
a) “Get to emergencies as quickly and safely as possible”.
b) “Faster than 15 minutes is good; slower than 15 minutes is bad”.
a) “Provide the best possible service”.
b) “Aim for 75% of customers to be satisfied”.
‘Analysis’ of results
If you answered:
Mainly ‘a’ – Nice one. Not difficult though, was it?
Mainly ‘b’ – Why? No, seriously, why?
Okay, so that little quiz was pretty silly. Joking apart, that’s because the answer ‘b’ position is silly. There is a serious point though, and it’s this:
‘Why would anyone believe aiming to achieve a fraction of a worthwhile objective is better than aiming to achieve the overall objective?’
This is yet another reason why numerical targets are a big fat #FAIL
- Always aim for perfection; i.e. 100% of your objective.
- Measure progress over time.
- Identify opportunities for improvement.
- Adjust system conditions to enable improvement.
You might attain 100%; you might not. In many cases there will be external factors that prevent the attainment of perfection. Nevertheless, it is still better to aim for 100% and use the right measures in the right way to understand and improve the system, than it is aim for an arbitrary numerical target that defines ‘success’ in terms of an answer ‘b’.
(Note: If you got mainly ‘b’s, you might find reading this blog therapeutic. If that’s unsuccessful, then perhaps repeating ‘numerical targets do work’ to yourself over and over again might help. Mind you, don’t complain when your water bill is wrong or your kids refuse to do their homework…)