What is the data telling us?

Posted on June 14, 2012 by

Have you ever visited a workplace to wonder how a team’s processes are performing? What about whether that team is having a good day or bad day? Have you ever looked at a report and wondered, while interesting, that’s not really all that relevant or doesn’t tell me what I want to know. These are all typical questions that come to mind when there are insufficient data or measures in place. In addition, there may be all sort of of reports and data collection we come across that are based on activities that are not tied to customer requirements and don’t ever drive action. When this is the case, it is difficult to have meaningful discussions on process problems or even know how bad the problems are because the discussion is anecdotal at best, and flat out inaccurate at worst. What’s more, many of the systems and databases were never designed with the needed capabilities in mind. Without the right measures and data methods, we don’t know truly what the problems are, and how large the gaps are to close.

So where do we begin in developing a measurement system? A great start is by understanding customer requirements for quality, cost, delivery, and more, translating those into standards and targets, and putting together a data colelction plan to track process performance against those standards. This means defining the right measures and data to track from the reporting that we may no longer need. Over the last several weeks, a team of committed JHS and DAJD leaders has mapped out a large value stream for our Psych Services. In going through this process, we’ve realized just how little we truly know in how well this value stream is performing with the limited data available. One of the big tasks ahead lies in defining the key value stream process indicators and outputs, and how best to pull, track, visually show, and analyze the critical few. An effective measurement system accomplishes this and drives the behaviors teams should pursue to be successful. I am confident over time that with some work, we can lay the groundwork to have the right data and metrics, and more importantly understand what the data is telling us.