Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Trend Spotting...!

At work (I simply love my new job) our team tries to parallelize everything - from data access, utilizing resources throughput & even our mutual interactions on a daily basis...and believe me it does save us a huge time everyday (superb efficiencies are a by-product too). Anyways, when I visited nearby Post Office to buy some Postage Stamps - I noticed something quite interesting. It was a "Eureka" kinda feeling when I observed the manner in which the customers were being served by the energetic looking USPS Personnel & tried drawing an analogy to the Post Offices I went to in my childhood days. Here's how I can best describe/demonstrate the difference:

Approach A (Lets call it - The Obvious One)
  • Have customers lined up in front of different post office windows so that at a time (in theory) - 4 Customers can be served. However think of the repurcussions when say the clerk at Window A is having issues with his system. One can forsee the chaos that situation like this would create for people lined up near window A. Secondly, say if I am in line A next to the person being served currntly and I notice that line C just got empty - there's no way I can walk over to Window C. Practically, what Window C personnel would do in this case is to split Queue at Window A from the middle. But hey, what about me - my wait time didn't reduce even though resources (read servers) were available. I am sure many of my friends can correlate this to a ususal occurence in few Train Reservation Centres in India.

Approach B (Lets call it - The Dynamic One)

  • Have people lined up in a single queue (this is what I observed in USPS Office yesterday) and the person in front of the line can choose to go to the first available window A through D. Now, statistically the average wait time for a customer is much less in this case for many reasons. One, in case if system at Window C is malfunctioning for some reason - the customer can quickly move to the other free (available) window easily. Secondly, in this approach, the skill / processing speed of a particular Window personnel wouldn't affect the customers when averaged out. (Imagine in Approach A - if you happen to stand in a line where the clerk takes 10 mins as against 5 mins to serve each customer - you are seriosuly doomed then ;)).
Well, then what I intended to convey that it isn't always necessary to go for mathematical/statistical analysis to spot trends in our day to day existence - being an avid observer & giving the gift of your complete attention to things (tangible or otherwise) around you is all one needs to do on a continual basis.
Oh yes - as always Seth impresses me with his latest post yet again - I love the buzz he creates in his creative approach to seemingly obvious & rational things (Intership, Squidoo, Book Launches, Seminar Invites etc) - I can just sit back & admire his distinctive style.