Histogram: Seek old data and distrust it


Rey ElboWHAT indicates an opportunity for creativity? My short and simple answer is, “There’s nothing better than allowing the workers to do their job without supervision.” Among command-and-control bosses, this is plain stupidity. And they’ll tell you not to allow it: “Don’t go to your workers telling them that.”

As expected, many Theory X managers don’t understand my view on this. Why not? It is as simple as understanding where these managers are coming from. Generally, they believe that workers prefer to be directed and dislike work most of the time. No, I don’t mean to single out those who work in the government.

The truth of the matter is—most dictator-managers don’t do a very good job answering the question on how to push the workers to give their best. And it’s hard to know just where one dictator-manager ends and the next one begins, but I guess it’s somewhere around their retirement age. I mean, it’s the experience that people get—which is like the gift comb that they receive after they lost their hair.

In Total Quality Management, you can’t lose your hair if you’re comfortable using the most popular seven problem-solving tools, which includes the so-called histograms that are commonly used to chart the frequency of an occurrence. With “histograms,” you can answer the basic question—“how often does something happen?”

Do you do it on a regular basis, from time-to-time, or periodic, depending on your mood?

Any discussion of histograms must begin with an understanding of the two kinds of data—“attributes” (good or bad, pass or fail, etc.) and “variables” (measured values like dimension, weight, etc.). An attribute is something that the product has or does not have. If you’re a natural person, then it’s like what we believe in Elbonomics—“to use your talent, you must first realize that you have a talent.” If you don’t have it, then you can’t give it or even display it before the general public.

If you are too weak resisting corruption, then don’t even think of working for the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (among other government agencies), or the system can easily beat you up to minute pieces. The brave military general like Danilo Lim knew this too late when he resigned from his job as customs deputy commissioner, apparently in exasperation.

Now, what about the “variables”? Would you be content receiving a pittance or gargantuan bribe? Can you measure them in volume, size, in kind, or plain cash? One can gain much more information about the kind of government person you are when variables data are available.

But of course, histograms just like other problem-solving tools are also susceptible to inaccuracies. The danger occurs when measurements of a product are taken over a long period of time. Also, there are too many things that can affect the work processes over time. In a factory, this includes the wear and tear of equipment, its maintenance, repair, raw materials that are being used, worker’s situation and environmental influence.

Therefore, it is helpful to consider histograms to be snapshots of the process performance. Just like in photography, if the subject is fast moving, the photographer must use a fast shutter speed to prevent a blurred image. The same thing could happen to histograms. If the histogram data are not collected faithfully over a short period of time, the result will be blurred, just as if the camera’s shutter is too slow for the subject. If a photograph is blurred, then like inaccurate histograms, they become worthless.

Good histograms therefore are those that show only a crisp snapshot of work performance at the time the data was taken, not before or after.

The concept is very simple. People and organizations don’t rely much on old data, no matter how accurate they appear to be. We look for the current situation to determine the real score. “The future starts today, not tomorrow,” said Pope John Paul II.

Now, isn’t strange? The same people who laugh at gypsy fortune-tellers are the same people who take weather forecasters seriously. Well, anyway, I read from somewhere that a cemetery in the United States has a tombstone over one hundred years old that bears the following epitaph:

“Pause Stranger, when you pass by. As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so you will be. So prepare for death and follow me.”

An unknown passer-by read those words and underneath, with a piece of wood, scratched this reply: “To follow you I’m not content, until I know which way you went.”

So, we ask the same thing under one rule of journalistic balance. Before you ask someone to go with you, be open and honest where you are right now. Are you still on track on your daang matuwid (good governance) strategy?

The electorate should be in charge of answering this. I mean, not just the simple electorate but the taxpaying constituency who are not recklessly lumped by the hakot (mindless) system during barangay elections.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing on human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.


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