Numbers and KPIs: Rules Count!


In this fun piece, Ron examines the connection between rules and counts, such as KPIs. Ever wonder why different people can count the very same things and come up with different answers? Fear the numbers you’re going by aren’t telling exactly the right stories? In viewing a measure, how far the truth might have been stretched? Come along on this short travel story and let’s explore the matter together.

How many of the following cities have you visited? Count ’em up. I’ll tell you my personal count at the end of the column.

New York Rome Casablanca Cape Town Warsaw
Toronto Copenhagen Dublin Stockholm Lisbon
Tokyo Berlin Prague Paris Auckland
Bangkok Milan Barcelona Vienna Hanoi
Melbourne Kiev Amsterdam Glasgow Honolulu
Mumbai Los Angeles Budapest Osaka Perth
Hong Kong Sao Paolo Athens Taipei New Delhi
Beirut Istanbul Manila Miami Rio de Janeiro
Cairo Montreal Las Vegas Santiago Chicago
Moscow Beijing Vancouver Seoul Zagreb
London Singapore Jakarta Dubai  
Munich Abu Dhabi Shanghai Lagos  

Of course, the precision of your answer depends on your rules – just like any other KPI you might measure. Here are some questions about your city count you might want to ask.

  • If you connect flights in an airport, but never physically leave the airport, does that count as a city you have visited? For example, I have connected on same-day flights in and out of Singapore, but as a transient passenger, could not go outside customs. Does Singapore count?
  • If you are a passenger in a hired car without input on the route, and you pass through a city without stopping or veering from the predetermined route, does that count as a city you have visited? For example, I have passed through Berlin on a chauffeured drive from Amsterdam to Dresden. Does Berlin count? (By the way we were on the autobahn after midnight, so the trip didn’t take that long!)
  • If you were on a cruise ship that had an outbreak of the pandemic, and you anchored at a port, but could not leave the ship, would that city count? Luckily, I do not have a personal example of this case(!).

The Freedom of Movement Rule

My daughter and I have had the same kinds of questions in a different travel game. We each keep track of the number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces we have visited. Like daughter, like father, we are both fierce competitors. So, to resolve edge cases, we had to come up with a rule to go (count) by. Rules help keep peace in the family(!). By the way, my personal counts for this travel game are also at the end of the column.

Our solution was what we called the Freedom of Movement Rule. To say you have visited a state or province, you must have the opportunity (even if you don’t necessarily take it) to move freely about. For the cities-visited game, the Freedom of Movement Rule would disallow counting Singapore and Berlin and any city where a quarantined cruise ship might have docked.

My daughter once drove us more than 50 miles out of our way in Minnesota to cross the border into Wisconsin so she could count that state. She just did a u-turn at the first legal opportunity. But Wisconsin counts for her – freedom of movement!

Actually, we were over the border for literally only 5-6 minutes. Do you think that’s too short a time to count as a visit? What would your rule be for minimum length of visit? (Let me know your thoughts and reasoning. Like I said, I am very competitive with my daughter about this game!)

Motivation Matters

I think the natural tendency on the city/state/province counts is to inflate. A higher number looks more impressive. But suppose I told you I was willing to finance your visits to places you’ve never visited. Then, you might be a little more conservative in your count. Motivation matters!

Or suppose the KPI is crime rate in a place. You are the city official responsible for promoting your city to out-of-towners for tours, conventions and conferences. You’d be tempted to discount the crime rate some, wouldn’t you?! Just saying!

Now these visit examples and KPIs are all just games. Business is an altogether different matter. Want to be data-driven? If factual numbers matter to you, you better know the rules!

My Counts

My Personal Count of the Cities: 28

My Personal Count of U.S. States and Canadian Provinces: 49 and 10, respectively

If you have read this far, you are probably curious which state I’m missing. The answer is Alaska, a planned 2020 trip a casualty of the pandemic. By the way, there are 10 provinces in Canada. Many (most?) Canadians have not been to all 10.

Author: Ronald Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC

Ron Ross, Principal and Co-Founder of Business Rules Solutions, LLC, is internationally acknowledged as the “father of business rules.” Recognizing early on the importance of independently managed business rules for business operations and architecture, he has pioneered innovative techniques and standards since the mid-1980s. He wrote the industry’s first book on business rules in 1994.

With BRS’s client roster of Fortune 500 companies and governments, Ron consults, speaks and teaches worldwide. He has served as the chair of the International Business Rules & Decisions Forum conference since 1997, now part of the Building Business Capability (BBC) conference.

Ron is also the author of 10 professional books, as well as the executive editor of the Business Rules Journal. Through these publications, as well as on the online forum BRCommunity and his blog, Ron enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience in consulting and business rules.

Outside of work, Ron enjoys walking his dogs, travelling with his three children, and tweeting. For fresh nuggets of information, follow him @Ronald_G_Ross!



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