Sanity check

Not what sanity check normally refers to, pic: geninv.net

You might hear somebody saying a sentence like this: “I have crunched the numbers all day long and I am fairly certain everything is correct but I would need you to do a sanity check.”

You might wonder whether that person fears to have gone insane and you are supposed to evaluate his or her mental health- but that is not it.  The sanity check refers to the numbers, the work.  The person is asking you perform a basic, quick test to evaluate whether her results can possibly be true and correct.  The goal is not to catch every possible error under the sun.

Let’s say she was working on a spreadsheet listing the 10 different products the company sells, plus units sold and sales price and calculated revenues.  If the number comes out to be 5 billion and the company is a small retailer then – more likely than not – there is some gross mistake somewhere, like a multiplication instead of an addition – something like that.  the sanity check would catch that.

What the sanity check might not catch is if she forgot to subtract the 5% discount given to a minority of the customers buying a specific product.

A sanity check is very useful in situations like that, where one worked on something all day long and fears to not see the big picture anymore.

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