Eyewitness Testimony: No Basis for Good Business Decisions

“There have been 318 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence since 1989. In most of those cases, the eyewitnesses who testified felt confident in their memories when under oath on the stand. Yet eyewitness testimony contributed to 72 percent of those wrongful convictions” – Newsweek – The End of Eyewitness Testimonies.

It has become more and more apparent over the past few years that eye-witness testimony, once the clincher in criminal cases, is very untrustworthy even when the witness is doing their very best to be honest and accurate. The article quoted above is just one in a series including others from the American Psychological Association, Scientific American and even a detailed study by the National Academy of Sciences. I had first hand experience last year, when I witnessed a highway near-collision caused by a reckless truck driver. Was the truck’s body red? I thought so. Did it even have a body, or was it a flatbed? I was sure it had a body. Turns out the other witnesses ALL reported it as a flatbed which was passing a truck with a red cab. So did CCTV evidence. Far from helping bring the dangerous driver to justice, by confusing the sequence of events, I probably ensured he got off scott free!

Our justice system is learning to treat eye-witness testimony as suspect, and is investing serious research in how to detect and prevent false eye-witness testimony. Shouldn’t the same apply to business? 

What does “eye-witness testimony” look like in a business context?
It’s the shift, fault and issue logs we ask our people to fill out at the end of every shift, and on which we base our continuous improvement, Lean and Six Sigma efforts. If this data is wrong, how much money are we wasting fixing problems that don’t exist and not fixing the real problems that are hidden?

Don’t believe the data is wrong? Ask people when they fill out their reports – Usually in a hurry, at the end of the shift.

Ask them how they estimate the time lost: I remember it seemed about that long.

Ask them why they picked this cause rather than that cause: A lot of things happened, but that was my gut feeling.

Sometimes things happen so quickly that people can’t see them like: Micro Stoppages. Sometimes people will quite happily tell you that they reported what was the biggest problem for them — “That machine always annoys me” — or didn’t report what they thought wouldn’t be listened to — “I gave up reporting that, because no-one ever fixed it!” Sometimes people just don’t see the problem, even when it’s staring them in the face. For example: the queue of workers waiting to get through security and onto the line for half an hour every shift change, while the line mysteriously “lost” 30 mins of production per shift, and no one knows where from.

As the business owner, you have an enormous advantage over law-enforcement: these crimes against information are happening on your premises! They are being committed in the presence of your machines and your IT systems full of accurate, objective data!

Why pretend to be Deputy Dawg when you could be Sherlock Holmes? Bring your detective work into the scientific age: use your data to make information that will stand up in the court of business improvement. It’s not that hard, find out how Fraysen can help!