When we participate in the classes and courses for process improvement tools and techniques, we learn the power of knowledge that is facilitated by collecting data, and a great many powerful tools that are at our disposal to help us turn data into understanding so we can make informed, wise decisions. Bottom line, data is powerful.
Then we exit the training environment and return to the real world only to discover a difficult truth. There never seems to be enough data.
Sometimes the data we want isn’t collected like we asked, or it is suspect or corrupted. Sometimes we get one part of the data, but not a corresponding part that is necessary for our analysis. Sometimes the data arrives too late. Sometimes the cost of collecting the data seems to be too high. Sometimes we get the data we asked for, but its behavior is not conducive to a simple analysis and decision.
Data simply isn’t as miraculously pristine and available as it was in the training environment. There is another data danger as well. We also battle a phenomenon whereby people have drawn a conclusion, or wish to present a particular picture, and then go looking for data to support it, which is of course backwards. The challenge around the latter is recognizing when such is the case and knowing to look for other relevant data or how to look at the data with an objective eye.
So, when we don’t have the data we want or need to make the decisions, what are our options? I like to break the challenge into two categories of importance or urgency. The first is a situation in which we must have proof. The second is where we don’t necessarily need proof, but it is important to make an informed and wise decision.