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Using Data First

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Data then Gut

You’re sitting around the meeting table, the main topic is under discussion, and the group has identified the actions needed to move forward. At this time, finding out which tasks to prioritize takes the lead in the conversation. Each attendee presents their input, leaning on their experience with the topic and how they perceive the level of impact. A decision is arrived at by the end of the meeting, and everyone feels good about the concluded approach.

Unfortunately, this approach often doesn’t lead to the best outcome. Take this example – This week, a specific issue has reduced your daily output. Someone asks you, “What is the biggest issue in your area”? The likely answer your Gut will give is the issue you feel affected production the most this week. Your response is a Data decision that emotions have colored. We are then partially blinded from the actual data, and it can misinform valuable resources and time. But how can we use the data? First, data needs to be collected and quantified. Here’s a quick way to perform this task. Each time an issue occurs, identify and record the cause for a specific workstation. As more causes occur, record them as well. Then, as the same causes occur, add their quantity of occurrences. For example, if belt-X breaks on a production line three times during the week, you should have the cause listed as “belt-X break” and its quantity of “3” for that week. This method is a simple way to capture the frequency of specific events. Let’s look at our original example – if asked, “What is the biggest issue in your area?” you can now pull up your quantified data and immediately see which is your highest offender by its frequency of occurrence.

Issue quantification is a great way to prioritize valuable resources and systematically resolve issues in order of their most significant business impact. Speaking of business impact, identifying the frequency may not always give an issue your highest business impact. Maybe the volume of waste per product has a more significant business impact. In this case, you measure the problem by its waste volume. Or you can measure it by frequency and waste volume to better guide your decisions. Data versus Gut sounds very simple, but observe your next meeting and note how often the Gut leads before the data. Using the Gut has its place, but when you decide on issue resolution, using data as your initial guide will help prevent blinding yourself to the actual value and better optimize your results.

Speaking of time, if you want to get an edge on making correct 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 Gut without data, take a step back and compare their decision against the data. Even if it only substantiates the conclusion, it’s always worth checking the data first. Using resources and time on non-value tasks is a negative return investment and should be avoided by leadership.

Thank you for reading.

Rick V.


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