-Lies, Damn lies and statistics-
I wake up in the morning, turn on the TV, usually the news channel, and while my kids are getting ready for school I grab a cup of Colombian coffee to kick start the day. To be honest, I pay little to no attention to whatever they are saying until the weatherman comes on. It’s not that I really trust him, but I like to have an idea of how the weather is going to be during my day, as it comes in quite handy when you live in a city like Toronto.
Right after the commercials, there he is, standing in front of a green screen, with all these fancy animations and a big smile on his face. How is the weather going to be today? I ask myself while paying closer attention to the screen. What’s today’s forecast? Then his famous statement “There’s a 60% probability of rain.” Leaving me in the middle of the moment of truth, I wonder – shall I take my umbrella and my raincoat, or shall I just stay with the regular sweater. Shall I just wear 60% of my poncho? Shall I stay in until 60% of the day is gone? 60%, what does that mean anyway? 60% is pretty much like flipping a coin.
So I finish my coffee and flip a coin… heads it is! I take my umbrella with me and go to work just to find out that there’s a beautiful day out there, lots of sunshine, not even a cloud in the sky. Boy, do I feel awkward wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella on a sunny day… that is until I meet other fellow friends who have also watched the same weather forecast. We smile, acknowledging the fact that we are carrying unnecessary baggage for the day, while I wonder where they flipped a coin too, or whether there are other people around us who were lucky enough to get tails that morning.
I often wonder if the weatherman goes out on a day like that and just counts the people with raincoats and umbrellas to see what his rating is for the day. I can hear him now – “Twenty four people with umbrellas on a sunny day Bob, ratings are going up!”
To be honest I’m quite amazed at how this weatherman is able to keep his job. I imagine he must have quite a special relationship with his boss – I imagine his boss saying to him, “You know Bob, this week there’s a 45% probability of you receiving your paycheck.” I bet the weather man wouldn’t like that, would he? Actually, that’s probably what happened before he started giving those forecasts just to piss off his boss.
Of course I understand what the weatherman is dealing with and I respect their profession, I just love the example of the meteorologist and his difficult job of playing with probability and statistics; he looks at the past, he looks at whatever is happening around him and at the same time he understands he is dealing with a complex system, the most complex of them all – Mother Nature, a system with a life of its own. Just like your company has! Yes, your company also has a life of its own, obviously not as complex as Mother Nature, but quite complex nevertheless.
Actually we might be in a similar position, as the weatherman sometimes plays with the average, the statistics, the sales forecast and the expected ROI while at the same time dealing with our team members, investors and senior executives’ needs and motivations. It’s quite a complex system if we really think about it.
Of course we don’t get to tell our internal or external clients something like, “There’s a 50% probability of you receiving a good service today!” If we say so I bet we would automatically get a 100% probability of getting a kick in the butt, and that wouldn’t be funny.
Some people claim money is a little more difficult to find nowadays, but that’s only true if you keep looking in the same places everyone else is looking. Fresh new markets are waiting for us to get to and sell, but in order to move our companies and reach them, we will have to travel the roads no one has ever traveled before, we will have to deal with the uncertain and suffer the anxiety of the unknown. That’s why I say change is not the real enemy, because actually change is the only way. The real enemy is the uncertainty of the unknown.
So, if your company is going through change, and believe me, it better be going through change (don’t fight change management, please don’t become one of those “employeesaurus” who are willing to stay the same year after year fossilized in the old policies, the old practices, the “used to..” sentences, as they are an endangered species), become the change agent, the visionary who embraces change and deals with the uncertain, otherwise there’s a high probability of rain for both you and your company.
Now, before I leave I just want to share with you that there’s a 100% probability you are reading this now. If that’s true, I guess I’d make quite a good weatherman – time for a career change? Just kidding!
My name is Jaime Leal, I’m a Canadian Keynote Speaker and I help good change happen.