A Humorous Look at Variation

Guest post by John Hunter, founder of CuriousCat.com.

Those with a Deming mindset may well have the same reaction I did to this comic: misunderstanding variation leads to reactions to non-signals.

Using data to improve the management of organizations is important. But you must understand what the data is telling you and what it is not telling you.

xkcd comic strip looking at variation in left hand blood volume
comic by Randall Munroe, from xkcd

Thinking that variation in the data must be important is often a mistake. To understand if the variation in the data matters, you must understand the system generating the data and how the data, that is varying, impacts the system.

Related: How to Use Data and Avoid Being Mislead by DataData can’t lie, but it can be used to mislead

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