Measurement and Data Collection

Posted on September 10, 2005  Comments (4)

This is my response to the Deming Electronic Network message (the site is dead, so I removed the link) on measurement.

I find it useful, to assure that data collection is a wise use of resources, to ask what will be done with the results. If you don’t have an answer for how you will use the data, once you get it, then you probably shouldn’t waste resources collecting it (and I find there is frequently no plan for using the results).

I have found it helpful to ask: what will you do if the data we collect is 30? What will you do if it is 3? The answer does not need to be some formula, if 30 then x. But rather that the results would be used to help inform a decision process to make improvements (possibly the decision to focus resources in that area). I find, that asking that question often helps reach a better understanding of what data is actually needed, so you then collect better data.

I believe, it is better to focus on less data, really focus on it. My father, Bill Hunter, and Brain Joiner, believed in the value of actually plotting the data yourself by hand. In this day and age that is almost never done (especially in an office environment). I think doing so does add value. For one thing, it makes you select the vital few important measures to your job.

But it is very difficult for anyone to actual suggest plotting data by hand: they must be very secure in their reputation (or maybe a bit crazy), because it seems to be a hopelessly outdated idea that paints you as the same. My appeal, within the Deming context, is that the psychology of plotting the points yourself is qualitatively different from letting the computer do it. Plotting the data yourself serves to lift the data that you plot out of the sea of data that we find ourselves inundated with and gives you a deeper connection to it. You would not plot all the data that you use by hand; just the most important items.

John Hunter
Curious Cat Management Improvement Connections

4 Responses to “Measurement and Data Collection”

  1. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Deming in the New Economy
    September 15th, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

    […] Great point, see: Measurement and Data Collection. Innovation rarely comes as the result of an apple falling from a tree and hitting you in the head. Innovation is more of a process – sometimes simple and buried deep within the psyche of the individual, and sometimes methodically sewn into the practices of a team – that is put in motion by the desire to improve the status quo. […]

  2. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Evidence-based Management
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 6:47 pm

    It is not easy to get people to change their habits. You often need creativity to give power to the data…

  3. Metrics and Software Development
    March 27th, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

    I find looking at outcome measures (to measure overall effectiveness) and process measures (for viewing specific parts of the system “big picture”) the most useful strategy…

  4. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Actionable Metrics
    July 22nd, 2010 @ 8:43 am

    […] are valuable when they are actionable. Think about what will be done if certain results are shown by the data. If you can’t think of actions you would take, it may be that metric is not worth […]

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