We all do it. We don’t tell ourselves the truth. When we do this, we think things are really better than they are.
One of the most important principles of lean companies is they don’t hide the truth. In other words, they don’t lie to themselves. They bring things out of dark closets and don’t try to make things look better than they really are.
“Bad” numbers aren’t so bad.
If a number you’re measuring is really bad, it might not be. All the number represents is where you are now. There is no good or bad about the number you’re measuring. Once you really know where you are, then you’re in a position to do something about it.
When you try to make bad number better by dressing them up then the number can become bad. You’re not telling yourself and those around you the truth. If things look better than they really are, you might not work on them because they don’t look so bad.
When bad numbers look good.
This is when you can have real trouble. It’s possible and we’ve all seen it where someone makes bad numbers look good. We did it as a nation when we didn’t count the cost of the Iraqi and Afghani wars as budget items. Our deficit was only a few hundred billion dollars instead of one much closer to a trillion dollars. Now we’re having to pay the piper on that little white lie.
When we make bad numbers look good, disasters can happen. This is when you can get blind-sided. Bad numbers don’t usually just appear one day; they usually take a fair amount of time before they absolutely require your attention.
What happens is the numbers get a little worse. We don’t initially pay any attention to them. Then, they actually do get bad enough where we need to pay attention. Instead of paying attention we decide to recast how they’re figured. The numbers that needed attention now look a little better, and in some cases much better. We now don’t pay attention to them and the next time they start looking a little bad it’s much worse than if we had dealt with the problem the first time around.
Constant improvement means knowing where you stand.
The unvarnished truth is always a good place to be. You’ll not get blindsided. You’ll have real room to improve. If the efficiency in your company is really 30% instead of 80% you’re likely to pay more attention. At 80% you think everything is humming along smoothly. If instead, your numbers are showing a 30% efficiency and they’re the same results, you’re likely to pay attention and look for where your opportunities lie.
A number is only a number. There is nothing that is good or bad about the number. It just is. It’s what you do with a number that counts. I’ve found and I bet you have too that when a number is low, you’re likely to pay much more attention than when a number is high.
Don’t spend your time thinking about how your measurement system doesn’t work. Understand where your numbers come from and then do something about it. You’ll be glad you did.
We have written a special report on key metrics in your business. Knowing what’s important to measure and if what you’re measuring is real is a good place to start when you want to improve your companies operations. To get this report, click on the button below.