Sometimes we get stuck in a unfruitful cycle of collecting and reporting. Where the reporting process is delegated to someone far removed from the manager, and each period the data is collected and the reports are systematically generated, distributed, then deleted.
We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files.
- Paul Simon, Mrs. Robinson
What happens when our processes become more important than our outcomes? When we collect data "for the reports" and little else. If you apply the 5-Why's method and ask why you're collecting data and you can't move past, "For the report." Then it's probably time to stop collecting.
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.
- Paul Simon, The Boxer
Sometimes we collect self-confirming information. To be sure, some of this has positive identity value, like the number of days without an accident let's say. But, if you're reporting that the corporate help desk received 828 calls last month, like they did for the past 18 months, with a standard deviation of 6, then, again, it's probably time to stop.

Data, big or small, like technology or exercise equipment, has the most value if it's used to facilitate change. Instead of collecting information about the number of help desk calls for the report, imagine the value of that same information when it's used to measure the effectiveness of a new proactive initiative, where Help Desk staff have been trained, empowered, & incentivized to assist people directly instead of routinely discharging a remote tech. Or, imagine using that same report to see if the new training program has had the intended impact on the number of calls to the Help Desk.

The next time you receive one of those routine reports, instead of routinely sending it to the trash, ask yourself why that information is being collected. Then ask yourself "Why?" 4 more times. Then ask, "What if...?"


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