Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Predictability Equals Success: 2585.3 to 2634.8: 12/9/14

This is 3 1/2 days of reality walking and six legs of the hike. I've delayed posting as I've been testing and pondering the effects of predictability - or variance as mathematicians would call it.

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Virtual Hike
Completed Segment 39
Animated Street View

The route follows some back roads near Miles City in eastern Montana. The animated street view will stop as it goes through the parts that are dirt. 

Reynold's Market is on the route into town and looks like an awesome place to shop. There is a motel on the route on the way out of town. Call ahead to avoid extra miles.

Predictability Equals Success


I've been reading Eliyahu Goldratt's books about ways to make businesses successful. In his first book, "The Goal: A process of ongoing improvement" I learned you can find the weak spot in any linear process by looking for the bottleneck. In his second book, "The Critical Chain: A Business Novel," I learned that a project has a higher chance of being completed on time, on budget, and on quality if people are held to their predicted completion times. Variances are tightly controlled as if they get off track, resource competition occurs. (Ex: Two people need the hammer at the same time.) In his third book, "Isn't it Obvious!" I learned inventory must be tightly controlled for retail stores for maximum profitability. 

In all of these books, I learned that delivering a steady stream of product is better than delivering in large batches, even if it costs more. 

I'm drawing from all of these and from personal backpacking experience to show why predictability, and not extra miles walked each day equals success. This seems to transfer to every field.

Constraint Stacking

When I planned this virtual hike, I started with a route. The first goal was to see if I could physically walk the route. The second was water availability. The third was food availability. I also planned to stay away from big cities and to hike during reasonable weather. I think all of these are resolved under one condition. The walker travels at a predictable pace. It almost doesn't matter what the pace is as long as it is predictable. Each time the food and water constraints are replenished, it starts the clock again. If the walker wants to take a rest day, this is most likely where they should take it.

Tight Scheduling

I haven't done it yet, but I know this hike can be tightly scheduled. Why is this important? What needs to be scheduled?

The cause of staying on schedule is the walker hiking the planned miles each day. This is the drumbeat for the whole operation. Not only should they hike the planned miles each day, but internally, they should plan the miles for each part of the day. Why?

The reason why is predictability and flexibility. As long as the plan is working well it is easy, but if it changes, the walker needs to know what changes are possible. They will get this experience from following a plan. For instance, suppose they are delayed by a thunderstorm. Do they hike farther that day or do they spend the night? 

This problem is at least partially resolved by a sawtooth walking schedule. Walk long miles the first day out from a constraint and short miles on the way into it. For instance, if the next water is 40 miles away, walk 30 miles the first day and 10 miles the second. 

Small packages

Each of Eliyahu's Goldratt's methods involves breaking large projects into smaller packages. The walker should plan as many places as possible along the route where the constraints of food and water are satisfied. They should replenish to the smallest amount of food and water they need until the constraints can be satisfied again. This may mean stopping more often for food and water, but it also means pushing less weight. Balance this against the distance a grocery store is from the route.

Practice the method

If you are like me, right now you may be a bit confused about what the process is. There is no need to take a long trip to learn the process. You can find five grocery stores in town and plan a hike to all five in one day. Stop in each one and touch the items you would need for a reality hike. Try to arrive at the grocery stores at a specific time. That timing is what you are practicing.


As I said, I'm at the edge of understanding why predictability is more important than the number of miles traveled each day. I do know that as I've made my goals more stringent, I've been averaging about 50% more miles a day than before. I also find that as I become more predictable, I have an easier time winning pedometer wars. For now, sit on the concept without objections. I'm not saying do it my way. What I'm saying is consider how predictability may help and if it doesn't, don't worry about it. 


  1. Very fascinating. I am looking a lot of quantum physics at the moment trying to determine whether what I believe and feel about connection is actually true. I am way beyond the limits of MY understanding, but I have a suspicion that at the heart of quantum physics is the proof that predictability is impossible because chaos intervenes. If I'm ever sure about that (highly unlikely), I'll get back to you! :)

  2. Jenny, there is a book called "Chaos and Fractals" that describes chaos theory. The word chaos is deceptive because it is defined by an equation in the same way a straight line is. It forecasts when a system will go from an orderly flow we like to what is called "Chaotic" which is still orderly.

    An example is traffic flow. The traffic can be moving smoothly coming into a city when someone slams on their brakes for a car entering from an entrance ramp. This forms a traffic wave (traffic jam) that gradually moves forward through a city.

    The same thing happens with this 48 state walk. if a person is late to a daily destination, it has a ripple effect through the whole hike. The easiest way to stop the ripple is to spend a night at the next planned overnight stop regardless of the miles. The problem is it puts them a day behind and the tolerances of this walk are too close to get too far behind.

    You might find some books on "New Thought" interesting if you are looking for human interconnections.

    Books by Eliyahu Goldratt explain how to stop chaos in a business by controlling the bottleneck and turning it into a drummer for the rest of the process. Another book somewhat explains project management where many plans have to meet at the end point. Another book explains improving the flow of products to retail stores by reducing inventory in small amounts.

    I postulate that finishing this hike quickly means the walker will have to plan each hour of the hike and stay as close to schedule as possible. This will keep the flow orderly and prevent a chaotic disruption. If they miss a day, they should stay a day behind until they can walk two days in one. There will be "trigger points" along the route which will stimulate other actions like having supplies sent, calling ahead for motel reservations, checking weather, buying new shoes, etc.

    Think of it like a closeline. The more poles there are to support it, the tighter it can be. I'm working on finding as many anchors for the hike as possible in the form of water sources, food sources and motels to some extent.