The danger of a single story

3 minutes
les dangers de l'histoire unique
Chimamanda Adichie

Do you know TED talks? It consists of inspiring presentations in science, art and technology. I would like to share with you today, one of the most seen video, presented by Chimamanda Adichie, on the danger of a single story. She highlights the importance of multiplying the sources of information.

Dangers of a single story

I invite you to watch her video, with more than 8 millions views, it is a great moment. The heart of the message is that the only story is to tell the same thing, repeatedly, until it happens. In social psychology, this effect is named self-fulfilling prophecy. It describes the transformation of an individual or group simply by the belief of how the group or individual will act, thereby causing the realization of the prophecy (“I told you”).

How do you see your teams? Do you have bias? Prophecies, which prove true when measured? Do you ever think that whatever controls are in place, your employees will not respect their authority limits? It is quite incredible to imagine how the thought of managers can impact the results of operational teams. Beyond the facts, what can you do to avoid this situation?

Multiply sources of information

The safest technique is to go on the field, the famous Gemba! The performance of your operations is probably reported in one dashboard (or more). You can read and understand these dashboards, but you should be interested in the persons who produce those dashboards. First of all, who collects the data, records it, compiles it, formats it. How many are they ? How many steps does your data go before being delivered? What manipulations undergoes your data? To summarize, it is important to understand how the reality of operations is presented to you.

Then, go back to the source, that is to say to the people who produce value in your organization and feed the data with their work. Does the data represent their performance, or are they chasing rat tails? This may be an opportunity to redefine your organization’s performance on good indicators and to multiply sources of information.

Be careful not to micro-manage: the goal is not to control the work on the whole production chain of your performance indicators … The objective is to understand the reality and how it is transmitted to you, in order to better judge each dashboard and take the appropriate actions.


A dashboard represents a fragmented vision of the organization. If they are useful for day-to-day management, you need to be in contact with the field to have a more complete and real vision of operations.

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