Numbers don’t lie, but you need to know the context

Numbers don’t lie, but you need to know the context

Numbers can fool people. They often do.

Product delivery teams get hung up on metrics.

Management gets fixated on numbers.

Questions like “how long will it take”, “how many lines of code”, “how many test cases”, “how many bugs”, “how long will you take to fix / test it”, are not useful.

Numbers are like sock puppets. They don’t tell a story for themselves and they certainly don’t talk for themselves.

It’s people who interpret the numbers. They “choose” how they want to interpret them.

For example:

A 3 week development cycle can be too short or too long depending on the context.

A list of 500 bugs can be humongous or can be “Phew! Only 500 bugs!”.

Without context, numbers will almost always fool people. Because then it will depend on people how they interpret those numbers.

For example:

A salesperson who is too keen to get something on the market to achieve their target will be too anxious to see a long list of bugs.

While a product manager who knows the complexity of the product and the basis of the bugs will be receptive to the same list of bugs without any worries.

So, next time you come across a metric, ask for the context.

Ask what those numbers mean and what they represent.

Ask what will happen if they are much lower or extremely high.

Try to seek the underlying complexity that lies behind the illusion of simplicity.

Maybe it’s the illusion of simplicity that fools us, and not the numbers. 

What matters is to find out what needs to be found out before jumping on the conclusions.