This is NOT a tree
This is not a tree. Can you tell me what it really is?
Time’s up. It is a picture of a tree. No, it’s not a stupid trick question…there is a point behind it.
So often people confuse the real thing with the representation of that thing. This picture of a tree doesn’t grow, blow with the wind, won’t get struck by lightning, won’t change colors, has no rings inside it’s trunk, and doesn’t perform photosynthesis. Compared to an actual tree, it isn’t even close.
We make this mistake when performing any kind of analysis. We look at the data as if the data was reality. It is not. It is only an abstraction of reality. It’s never right, true, or unquestionable. It should always be questioned, challenged, and understood how it is calculated or measured. There is always more understanding that can be gained than the data can represent by itself.
The same thing happens when using any kind of process mapping. Here’s an example of a simple value stream map for depositing your check at the bank.
No matter how much more detail I add and data I insert, it will still only be an abstraction of reality. Reality is always more complex.
What are the implications?
- Never trust data, process maps, or any other abstraction blindly.
- Always question yourself and the team about what you might be missing.
- Treat all changes as experiment. You will never know how accurate your interpretation of reality is until you test it in reality. Think PDCA.
How does your organization treat data and process maps? Are they absolute, or just one tool in the process of exploration?