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Are you just another person with an opinion?

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Statistician and Management Consultant W. Edwards Deming was pretty sure of himself when he said:
"Without data you’re just another person with an opinion"

His lifelong passion for the life empirical was the baseline for many of his ideas which would later become a management philosophy. This philosophy, embraced as it was by the Japanese, was seen by many as the reason for their post-war economic boom.

My ambitions are modest in comparison. I have three ducks to align on my path to empirical nirvana and so far, I have two of them facing the right way. The details of these two ducks, 'Content' and 'Context', can be found in these articles:

The final piece of alignment for us concerns something I have termed 'Capability'. As a Yorkshireman I rarely stray onto the nebulous concept and I can only apologise if you feel that to be the case now. A hyperactive cerebral cortex is my preferred reason but it is much more likely caused by excessive flu medicines.

Essentially, my 'Capability' covers the delivery of a report.

  • Let me call the first "incentive". I would suggest that wherever possible, a carrot be deployed rather than a stick. "Encourage the good behaviour, make the bad behaviours harder to do", has been a subliminal influence over a number of decades now and making it easy for people to access their data is a sure fire way of getting people to access it. Access to information in common locations (links or embedded screens) is ideal.
  • My next tenet of 'Capability' is one of capacity. Do you have the resource to do the work? Think carefully about this. Version 1.0 of a dashboard will NEVER be the finished product and you should allow for rework in your estimate. Skills can be bought in but given the fascinating opportunities a life empirical can offer, perhaps other staff would like to give it a go.
  • My final consideration for 'Capability' is one of technology. There are many technologies that provide reporting capabilities and they vary in function, operation and price. Most allow trial periods so there is no excuse for not knowing which is best suited to your needs. Of course, should you have a corporate standard, you will know what you can use.

In summary, 'Capability' can be satisfied with:

  • Easy viewing of reports
  • Resource for the report and follow-up work
  • A suitable technology. Speak with colleagues, peers, even me!

Having aligned our three ducks, you will be better placed to produce those reports and you will be much more than a person with an opinion, you will be informed, an almost perfect state of grace.

About the Author:


In an IT career that has spanned well over twenty five years, Karl spent time in consultancy, operations, product management and solutions design. As a Client Advisor, he is here to help you get the most from your systems and can bring that variety of experience with him to help you. Some of his colleagues have pointed out that he is a geek by nature due to his keen interest in all things technical. Particular areas of focus include integration and mobility. His spare time is taken up with walking (slowly), basketball (also slowly), and photography (excruciatingly slowly). He also maintains an extensive computer lab at home. The “geek” tag is probably well deserved.

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