Monday, September 24, 2007

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Quite a Latin mouthful, but the concept is surprisingly simple to explain and understand. It is also a valuable concept for IT professionals to keep in mind.

When translated Post hoc ergo propter hoc equates to "after the fact" or "because of this, that happened".

Perhaps an example is the best way to describe the concept. Imagine you are the IT Service Manager and two months ago you introduced the Problem Management process.

In the following two months, the number of incidents logged has decreased and user satisfaction has hit an all time high. You take the credit for this good news and submit your claim to the CIO for a pay increase!!

However, the CIO sends you a reply "post hoc ergo propter hoc". Unfortunately (for you) at the very same time that you introduced Problem Management into the organization a geographically remote branch of the business was experiencing some industrial unrest over working conditions and overtime allowances.

Now this is something that worries you and in fact you were not even aware of the fact as it is a Human Resources issue.

The ensuing strike has meant that the 200 workers - all of who use computers and services managed by you have spent very little time in the office over the last two months.

So your claim that incidents are down and satisfaction is up, because of your changes can be easily challenged. It is not to say that you are wrong - but it is to say that further investigation is required.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - a useful concept to keep in mind and one that could save you an embarassing claim to fame and fortune that is easily dismissed.

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