KFC Representative Survey

KFC and the Representative Survey

I had KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) for breakfast yesterday. Chicken rice porridge and a “breakfast” wrap (that oddly enough didn’t seem to contain any chicken).

It was decent, and I liked it.

So when I was quite excited when I saw that the receipt had a link to an online customer satisfaction survey, for which I would get a free piece of chicken if I completed it. It was a pretty good deal, I thought.

But I couldn’t help but wonder about how useful it was to KFC.

Surely survey responses would be largely over-represented by people who like their food (and service, to a certain degree)? If I hated their food, and/or hated their service, and swore never to go back there again, what good would offering me a free piece of chicken do for me?

These are the people whom you probably most want to hear from, and yet have absolutely no incentive to complete such a survey (and in most likelihood, being normal people like us, they’d vote with their dollars and just not patronise the store again, instead of submitting feedback).

It would, in short, be far from a representative survey.

I just hope that those who are interpreting and on the receiving end of said-interpretation understand the limitations of just such a survey, and discount the very likely amplified, far-too-positive results.

And if the results are lukewarm instead of three-Michelin -stars-worthy? Then oh dear.

On Planning and Project Management

“So how long,” he asks, “do you think you’ll take to complete the project?”

“Two weeks,” I say.

Three weeks later, I’m still two weeks away from completion. What happened?

It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. It’s happened many times before.

Rolf Dobelli says it beautifully in his excellent book The Art of Thinking Clearly:

[W]hy are we not natural-born planners? The first reason: wishful thinking. We want to be successful and achieve everything we take on. Second, we focus too much on the project and overlook outside influences. Unexpected events too often scupper our plans.

The second point is particularly pertinent in my line of work. I have a pretty decent idea of how long a project will take, if all goes well and if I could dedicate 100% of my time to the project.

What I tend to forget is that life often gets in the way. There are plenty of interruptions. Other “important”, “even more urgent” projects pop-up; ad hoc requests that are quick to resolve but that just as quickly add up to significant amounts of time; regular routine work that’s not quite factored in, because they are normally quickly executed, but every once in a while require a long, dragged-out bout of firefighting.

Dobelli has a solution for better planning. He suggests

[shifting] your focus from internal things, such as your own project, to external factors, like similar projects. Look at the base rate and consult the past. If other ventures of the same type lasted three years and devoured $5 million, they will probably apply to your project, too — no matter how carefully you plan.

Which is a great case for keeping a log of project and their time to completion (do NOT trust undocumented recollections of project lengths; like childbirth, our brains tend to underestimate the amount of time and pain we go through).

Also, one more thing I would is that you resist the temptation to think that “this time is different”, and that no matter how confident you are, this time is probably not.

Trust the data.

Image of a die with "maybe" and "yes"

The Default Option

Saw the following via Avinash Kaushik on Google+. Too good not to share, and on so many levels.

If internet explorer is brave enough to ask you to be your default browser, you're brave enough to ask that girl out.

It is worth highlighting that the power of the “default option” is a very real one.

Organ donation is a good example. Whether organ donation is an “opt-in” (i.e. the default option is not donating), far fewer people tend to go for it, as compared to when it’s an “opt-out” (i.e. the default option is donating).

I’m a big believer in this effect, and use it often when scheduling meetings, among other things.

For example, when scheduling meetings, I like to give options, but always ensure that one of them is the “default” or “preferred” option, even though there’s no reason for it to be (“We can meet either Thursday 2pm or 5pm, though I would prefer 2pm. “)

It helps expedite things: if the recipient can’t make it at 2pm or 5pm, it’s an easy choice, the recipient just chooses the alternative. If the recipient can make it for both, the recipient just chooses the default (2pm).

Without the default option, if the recipient can make it for both, it’s likely the recipient would wait till the last possible moment before responding, keeping options open in case another meeting crops up.

Great things don’t just happen

Like a blog post.

I’ve been thinking all month that “I ought to update my blog”, but “inspiration” didn’t hit and so I just let it slide.

Day after day, thinking about it; not doing anything.

And then I thought, “what if I don’t wait for inspiration? What if I just got out there and wrote?”

Well, I did. And I did.

Feeling Sorry for Yourself in this Complicated World

I was feeling sick. I mean really sick. Walking five steps would leave me gasping for air. My throat felt like murder (:bad). My head throbbed like a discotheque.

But I had work to do. Work I didn’t feel like doing, but which my professional self wouldn’t let me off not doing.

Let me share with you a little bit of my work ethos using one of my favourite quotes from Will Smith:

I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories.

But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple.

So I got to work. While working away through my illness though (whatever it was; or actually still is, because I’m still feeling its effects two weeks after), I couldn’t help but think if it was all worth it. This wasn’t change the world stuff; and I wasn’t being compensated enough to make up for that fact.

In fact, I started feeling quite sorry for myself. So sorry that I started googling for help: quotes on self-pity

And came across this little gem from D H Lawrence:

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Which reminded me of the Will Smith quote and helped me carry on till most of the stuff I needed to do were done.

On my walk to school yesterday though (I’m back to school for a Masters in Tech, by the way), I passed by a bird. That bird was chasing down a worm, pecking at it. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the worm, though I knew very well it was just the natural order of things.

And I realised that the reason why wild things never felt sorry for themselves could well be the reason why we do: because we are not wild; because we feel pity not just for ourselves, but for our fellow living beings.

How complicated our world is!

The place for the polymath. Because there's too many good things in life to be great at just one thing.