Tuna Burgers

I remember one summer morning when I was a child, discussing the day ahead with my mother. She said that we would be going to the McDonald's for lunch. I was stoked. What a treat! We did not go "out" for many meals, so I was pretty pumped. All morning long the thoughts of hamburgers and french fries danced around in my mind, not to mention the pavlovian watering going on in my mouth. Around lunch time, I got ready to go, planning on the twenty minute drive into town. I was perplexed however, as we headed out walking down the road. My little kid brain kicked in doing the math; I quickly concluded that something was amiss. If we walked to town it would be dinner that we would be eating, not lunch. We had never walked into town before. The panic began to set in. I asked my mom what in the heck was going on. She patiently reminded me that she had explained that morning that we were going to the MacDonald’s for lunch. It turns out that the MacDonald’s were the neighbors that lived about a quarter mile down the road. Oh man. What did this mean? No hamburgers, no fries.
Imagine how disappointed I was in the tuna fish sandwiches and celery sticks. I never really liked tuna fish sandwiches. I was more of a peanut butter and jelly guy.

Children are often served food that does not look appetizing. This usually leads to the so called "playing" with the food. I have never witnessed a child “playing" with their hamburger, pizza, mac and cheese or other kid food. They "play" with food they do not like. The "playing" really amounts to the rearranging of the food to make it appear as though more has been consumed that really has. This is a trial and error process. Try hiding the peas under the mashed potatoes, spreading the food out flat, piling it up. Whatever makes the story look better. The goal is to fool their parents, when the fact is that they have not eaten their food.

This same behavior can be observed regularly in business today. Executives request a report, data is collected and the facts presented.
Unfortunately, the data in the report may not look appetizing. Hoping for hamburgers, the reality is tuna fish. Rather than accept the data at face value, saving face becomes the daily special. Since hamburgers and fries were promised upward, the request (read: additional work) is passed down. "Change the way the tuna fish is served. Rather than sandwich bread, put it on a bun....And point out that celery sticks are roughly the same shape as fries."

Reports are generated, reworked, twisted, and spun in everyway possible to make the tuna fish look like hamburger. How many different ways can the data be presented? Try a pie chart. Try a line chart. How about a bar graph…. maybe just tablature data? Show it as a percentage instead of raw data. Do whatever it takes. The requests for the same data keep coming, with different format requests. The expectation is that if the request is made often enough or the format is changed enough, that the data itself will change. Rearranging the food on the plate does not get it in our bellies.

The most interesting realization about this whole process is that the amount of effort to actually improve is dwarfed by the effort poured into saving face and monkeying around with the data. Progress is slowed.

Oh, speaking of slow, my car really needs a tune up.... I am painting it red.