Just the facts
“Just the facts, ma’am” is the mantra for Jack Webb from the 1950’s TV program Dragnet. Today we say, “Show me the data.” And, therein lies a cautionary tale.
Data is a key to running a high performing business. Without it, it is too easy to get stuck in the emotional eddy of a single anecdote. A couple of days ago I lost phone and internet connection from my local cable company and I kicked myself for having bundled everything with them. In fact, I kept a notebook of problems just because I had so much trouble. Flipping that open, I read the last entry and was surprised to find that it was dated almost a year ago. Emotionally, I remembered unending problems. In fact, I’d had a year of reliable service. I still called customer service [thank goodness for cell phones] but the data got me to approach this from an entirely different perspective.
But data isn’t just about data. We often have too much data. Or worse, we fall in love with the data. In reality, data is only valuable when it becomes information - the kind of information that helps us make better choices.
What is the best we can do for our bosses, the executive management team, our clients, our friends? It is to give them information that sets the stage for smart decision making.
I’m reminded of a recent conversation where a senior manager looked at a chart and said, “This is what I want to see every week.” His reports guy replied, “You get this data every week.” The response was, “No. Not like this. This I understand.” Somehow his weekly reports never made the transformation from data to facts that empower smart decisions.
The buzzword phrases of ‘information overload’ and ‘spreadsheet hell’ and even some cries for “more data!” are an indication of the slippery slope. Don’t go there. Instead, see the whole of the data and look for WHY. The backstory. The emerging trend. What, if told, would enable a leader to act in a positive way?
Does this mean I’m advocating less data mining? Not at all. What I am saying is that a critical eye is used when compiling data.
It is only after we know what and why that we have the kind of facts that would make Jack Webb proud.
About the author:
Nancy Norman is known for her ability to look at the same old problem and develop a new insight or approach to creatively solve it. Learn more about Nancy
Aveusians on Twitter
Follow @AveusLLC on Twitter.