Missing Bullet Holes

During World War II, a group of statisticians was asked to find ways to reduce the number of American airplanes that didn’t return from missions. After studying bullet-hole patterns in aircrafts that returned from missions, the idea was to add more armor to the areas of the planes where they had been hit the most—wings, fuel system, and fuselage— but, oddly enough, not on the engines, which had the smallest number of bullet holes per square meter.

Then, one statistician asked an interesting question: Where are the missing bullet holes—the ones that would be all over the engine if bullets were equally distributed? The answer was obvious: The missing bullet holes were on the planes that had been shot down and hadn’t returned. The critical part of a plane was not where most of the bullet holes were on the returning planes. It was where the bullet holes were on the planes that were shot down.

Where are the missing bullet holes in your organization?

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto/GNeesam


November 23, 2021 at 2:29 pm

invaluable lesson

Harvey Opps
November 23, 2021 at 5:46 pm

I had worked for Phillips NV in Canada in the 1970’s, (Lighting Division). I was an Associate of the Goldratt Institute (1980’s-1990’s). I had worked with Russian engineers in the 1990’s (TRIZ).

When is read the line “Then, one statistician asked an interesting question:” I got a chill up and down my spine remembering the old days. Living in the USA, I can tell you that today’s society does not like “an interesting question”. We hate paradox and having to deal with paradox.

Thank you for your astute observations and insights.

    Paul Rulkens
    November 28, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Nice insight, interesting questions are the spice of life!

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