February 22, 2018

The emotion and the numbers

Woman thinkingSometimes we avoid getting the figures together because we know we won’t like what they’re telling us.

Sometimes our people will avoid preparing information accurately because they’re scared of how we will react to it.

That’s a problem.

As W Edwards Deming said, “Wherever there is fear, there will be wrong figures.”

For our part, somehow we need develop the information dispassionately and then consider what it’s telling us. Focusing on the process we’re following helps. If we feel in control, that’s something.

With other people compiling information for us, we need them to know we will be calm when we’re given the results.

Otherwise, in either case…

We won’t really know where we stand. We will mislead ourselves or other people will mislead us.

How do you separate the emotion from the numbers?

If it’s only when people are leaving…

People walking awayIf it’s only when people are leaving that they can tell the truth in an organisation, then we have a problem.

And yet that’s often the way it seems to be.

If it’s only when there’s no longer anything at stake that people can be real, then we’re going to suffer from the consequences of ill-informed decisions.

It takes a lot of effort and leadership presence to ensure people feel safe telling the truth—to counteract the fearful nature of human beings. And we need to be ready to hear things which might be painful.

How do you encourage the honesty you need in your organisation?

Not by making people scared, that’s for sure.

W. Edwards Deming said “Wherever there is fear, there will be wrong figures.”

Tesco’s apparently overstated profits seem an obvious example to consider.