Using Data First

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Data then Gut

You’re sitting around the meeting table, the main topic is under discussion, and the actions are being determined on how to move forward. Finding out which tasks to prioritize takes the lead in the discussion. Each attendee is presenting their input, leaning on their experience with the topic, and how they interpret the level of impact. By the end of the meeting, a decision is made, and everyone feels good about the concluded approach. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always play out to the best outcome. Take this for example – A specific issue has been impacting your area every day for a week. Someone asks you, “What is the biggest issue in your area”? The likely answer your gut will give is the issue that’s been affecting you the most this week. This is a data decision being multiplied by feelings. We are then partially blinded from the true data, and it can misguide valuable resources and time. But how do we first use the data? Data has to be collected and quantified. Here’s a quick way to perform this task. For a specific section of work, each time an issue is encountered, record the cause. As more causes occur, record them as well. As the same causes occur, add their quantity of occurrences. For example, if a belt breaks on a line three time during the week, then you should have the cause “belt break” and its quantity of “3” for that week. This is a simple way to capture frequency of specific events. Let’s take another look at our original example – if you are asked, “What is the biggest issue in your area?”, you can now pull up your data and see right away which is your highest offender by its quantity.

This is a great way to clearly prioritize resources and systematically resolve issues in the order of highest business impact. Speaking of business impact, maybe the frequency does not give an issue your highest business impact. Maybe the volume of waste per issue determines the highest business impact. In this case, you simply measure the issue by its waste volume. Or even better, you can measure it by frequency and waste volume to even better guide your decisions. This sounds very simple but watch your next meeting and take note how often the gut leads before data. Using the gut has its place, but when you have time to make the decision regarding prioritizing issue resolution, using data as your initial guide will help prevent blinding yourself to the true value, and better optimize your results.

Speaking of time, if you want to get an edge on making great decisions in any situation, check out the article “Making Good Decisions, Every Time” in the blog section.

Once you see your team fall off the path and follow their guts without true data, take a step back and compare the decision against the data. Even if it only verifies the decision, it’s always worth checking the data first. Using resources and time in non-value tasks is a negative return investment and should be avoided by leadership.

Thank you for reading.

Rick V.


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