Takeaway: This article highlights the value of data and how we rely on it. We need to seize the opportunities created by data.
We rely on data more than you may think. From stepping on our bathroom scale in the morning to viewing our speedometer on our way to work. Data keeps our world in order and us in control. Like a map; It tells us where we are in reference to where we need to be.
A dictionary definition of data would say something along this line; Facts and statistics gathered for reference or analysis.
Data is what gives us the ability to create dynamic tension for driving positive change. Dynamic tension is created when we see our current condition versus our desired condition. It shows us the gap that we must close between the two. It validates we are going the right direction, and doing the right things. This gives us confidence and hope for a bright future.
“Measurement is the heart of any improvement process. If something cannot be measured, it cannot be improved. Period. End of story. What gets measured gets done” – W. Edward Demming
Our decisions are only as good as the information we base them on. Poor data leads to poor decision making. From creating a hypothesis through driving to a conclusion, we rely on accurate data delivered in a timely fashion. Good people can’t override a bad system. Most systems rely on accurate data.
Data analysis is a source for gaining objective, factual information for:
- Problem identification & prioritization
- Monitoring processes or equipment
- Process Control & Continuous Improvement!
Data is objective and if correctly gathered; factual. For example, when you visit your doctor, the first thing she/he does is collect data; measure your blood pressure, body weight, and temperature, etc. They don’t ask the patients opinion on these. No guessing; They gather factual data to guide their diagnosis.
We need data for surfacing and prioritizing problems. Like with the doctor, until we have accurate, reliable data, we are just guessing. Measurements tell us where attention is needed and how to prioritize our efforts. This keeps small issues from becoming big problems. Imagine if your car’s speedometer did not work. You may not realize your speeding until you see flashing colored lights in your rear-view mirror.
Data is used to monitor improvements and verify which changes resulted in the desired outcome. Data can be collected to document continuous improvement, set baselines and maintain gains. For example, process capability analysis after each significant process improvement.
We use data to control operations; Readings from gauges and counters verify that process parameters are within established “control” settings. Process control documentation is an excellent starting point for quality issues. Timely, accurate data means we can make good documentation and decisions.
Clean data can be the best way to achieve consensus. When dealing with people as part of a project, working towards a common goal we need agreement on the best course of actions. Data can give everyone the same “ah-ha” moment. No arguing or personal agendas as we base decisions on information provided by fresh data.
Teams can safely follow scientific thinking by forming hypotheses, and tracking input and output. Data takes personalities out of the equation.
It has never been easier to collect, store, retrieve and analyze data. New technology in the form of smartphones, tablets, and apps can be used to gather data real time and share it with stakeholders. This can significantly reduce the time between identifying and addressing issues.
Making use of electronic forms can reduce errors in reporting and gathering information. Controls are set for filling in needed information, ensuring all relevant data is captured. Information can be easily graphed or put in visual charts that display trends. The visuals provided by graphs can create a sense of urgency as we see negative trends begin.
Tracking and assessing processes and equipment with real-time numbers increase the ability to identify issues and drive improvements.
Information streams are a vital part of any business. This is like the blood flowing through our veins. We rely on it to stay healthy. The easier we make data collecting and use it to improve operations, the more employees will embrace it. As employees gather needed information that enhances what they do and how they do it, pride and work satisfaction increases. We love succeeding at what we do, and we embrace anything that makes life and work easier.
Individuals and companies alike are embracing new technologies for gaining control of their personal and business life. From using a Fitbit for monitoring health to smartphone apps for tracking assets and investments, we use technology to make our life easier. Useful information, when we need it means good decisions based on current facts. We gain confidence and security in our plans and actions.
Like the doctor collecting information on a patient’s vitals, take time to determine the data your business needs to manage. What do you need to know? Examples include:
- Equipment utilization (Actual run time vs. scheduled run time.)
- Scrap rates (shrinkage in manufacturing operations.)
- Equipment breakdowns (And cause.)
- Changeover times (Amount of time spent in changeovers.)
- Traffic (Website and brick and mortar)
- Sales levels (Number of sales, Amount per sale…)
- Growth rates & market share
- Injury rates and near misses
- Customer satisfaction (List complaints and customer satisfaction rating.)
The first part of control is to identify all key performance indicators. Once identified, we can put tracking mechanisms in place. We make sure we have identified the information that is vital for the health of the business and track it relentlessly.
Just like the scoreboard for a soccer game, the numbers direct our team’s strategy and gives us feedback on effectiveness. Information influences behavior. When you remove the scoreboard from a sporting event, you no longer have a game, you have practice. We need every employee’s head in the game.
Workers can get instant validation and reward for effort by seeing positive trends resulting from their efforts. The sooner rewards are given, the more powerful they are. Employees continue working with confidence, knowing they are doing the right things. They also know they will be able to show their numbers later to their manager/supervisor and gain more recognition for a job well done. (We never receive too much validation.) For large employers, this may be the strongest benefit of good data collection and use.
Are you making the best use of available data? Are you using technology to make it easier to track, analyze and use? Ignorance is bliss, but the consequences of ignorance in business are all but bliss. Employees don’t support what they don’t understand. Think of that soccer game scoreboard. We need precise information to guide employee and management effort. Identify the data your business needs, create your information stream and enhance your odds of a bright future.