Responding to an event without an understanding of common and special cause variation leads to tampering which creates the opposite effect from what was intended.
The recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota that have led to national protests and motivated the murder of police officers in Dallas, Texas is a case in point.
The immediate perception of the shootings is that blacks are disproportionately the victims of police shootings. In other words, the conclusion is drawn that the shootings represent “SPECIAL CAUSE” variation when the facts indicate that the incidences represent COMMON CAUSE variation.
The following two articles indicate that blacks are not disproportionately involved in police shootings. Applying the accepted methods for determining common and special causes will help shift the focus to needed improvements in the system.
The “So what?” A common cause indicates predictability, and if you can predict it, you can improve it by addressing the root causes of the problem that will lead to reductions in shootings.
A special cause can indicate a temporary or fleeting event or a shift in the system that something “unusual” may be happening. In the case of the police shootings, this can incite more violence and lower community support for the police. This situation can then lead to less policing that results in increased crime.
Ignorance of variation nationally leads to further division and hostility that detracts from the unity needed to improve the system.
Blacks, Whites Disagree Over Whether There’s A War on Police. While police killings are escalating in America, voters are less convinced that there is an actual war on those in blue, although most still blame politicians who are critical of the police for making their jobs more dangerous. But blacks and whites sharply disagree on both questions.
The Way Ahead? Raise awareness of the better approach and support the type of change that leads to improvement. As Dr. Deming reinforced, it’s all about reducing variation from the ideal.