Statistics can be very helpful in managing risks. They
can also be used to hide major risks from the uninformed. Managers need to see
through any ignorance, error or deception that can easily lurk in the numbers or
graphs. You don’t have to be a
statistician: common sense and simple math are all you really need.
Data must first be analyzed, interpreted and presented
before management can use it.
(A diagnostic control function - see MYPR October
Each step requires action that can introduce errors or allow manipulation.
Data are meaningful only in context – if you don’t
know the subject intimately, get some trustworthy help fast!
You should always be wary of sources – ask who, what, when, where, how?
Have definitions changed? (See MYPR June 1999)
Beware if the source is an interested party or is not shown.
Make your own rough estimates. Read
the fine print and watch for words like ‘estimated’ or ‘suggests.’
Surveys and polls require special attention.
questions, check everything and take nothing for granted. It is your duty to
ensure statistics are not misused, especially if the safety of an innocent and
trusting public is at stake. Good
statistics can provide deep insights, but they can never replace the wisdom born
of a healthy degree of skepticism.
As a professional pilot, Murphy’s first exposure to statistics was the strong desire to avoid becoming one!
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Mike Murphy spent 17 years (78-96) with Transport Canada, his last five as Regional Director General, Aviation in Winnipeg. Originally trained as a professional pilot, he is the author of an internationally acclaimed 500-page report entitled "An Evaluation of Emergency Response Services at Airports in Canada," currently in its second revised edition (August 1999) and is undergoing a third major revision. He is also the Chairman of the Air Passenger Safety Group (APSG) www.transport2000.ca/APSG , a Director of Transport 2000 Canada www.transport2000.ca, a Director of the Ottawa Chapter of Christian Businessmen's Committee (CBMC) www.cbmc.net and the Secretary General of the Peugeot Club of North America (PCNA). www.peugeotclub.org
In his volunteer role at the Air Passenger Safety Group, Murphy has investigated and found several air safety documents that misused statistics to make points that had nothing to do with aviation safety. It requires a bit of detective work, but can be satisfying when the imposter is finally exposed. He is of the view that if everyone read statistical reports with a skeptical eye, the authors of such dubious reports might mend their dubious ways. Challenge and dialogue are integral to good risk management. Murphy welcomes the challenge of any idea or statistic posted here.
(Available in Word 97 by email or by fax from):
e-mail: Michael Murphy
CADMUS Corporate Solutions Limited,
59 Queensline Drive,
Nepean, Ontario K2H 7J4
Tel. (613) 829-0602 Fax (613) 829-6720
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