No One is Average

by | Apr 28, 2019 | Change |

The average family in the USA has 2.2 kids. But who of us has 0.2 of a child? No one.

Averages are useful for a quick sense of a group, an affected population and for some rough planning. But they are not reality. I see it all the time. In this flood response the average household size is 5, in this drought it’s 6, in this war affected area 3. And armed with this information, warehouse teams put together bundles of aid for households based on the average. We call this efficient, but who is it efficient for? Certainly not the household who’s size is 2, 4, 8.

When we use these averages for our business process planning, we run into trouble too. We assume the average is the same across the whole affected area, not considering it may be different in different districts or communities. Or that the communities in the districts are spread out differently or the terrain and roads are different. And so teams sent to different communities take different lengths of time.

Rough planning is good, especially when speed is of the essence. It helps us move forward; take the step. We need to figure out ways to stop it becoming locked in. When we change or explore our business processes, we need to remember to ask who is the process efficient for? Who is it inefficient for? Is that the trade-off we want?

Perhaps it’s also time to enable the frontline staff to customise the offering, the assistance for the person in front of them.


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