No graph, no meeting! Part 1
What is a person doing in these bizarre times? A question that probably many of you are asking. As a professional process improvement trainer, there are of course gaps in my agenda due to the limited interaction possibilities with trainees and coachees. However, as it is not my style to be complacent, I committed myself to write a few reflections on what I have seen and experienced in my job over the past years.
In this blog, I want to focus on the use of data and make a strong appeal to base opinions on facts and figures rather than on intuition and emotions. I will also try to give a few tips on how to let data and graphs lead to firm decisions, rather than giving rise to even more emotions and concoctions.
Let me start with an anecdote from a previous life. One of my managers from that time can only be described as flamboyant. The man was not unaccustomed to using witticisms and bold statements to express great truths to his direct employees. One of these statements was invariably: "No graph, no meeting". I am still grateful to the man for this educational experience. He was and is absolutely right. How many boring meetings I have attended since then is uncountable. When reflecting on why I found them so boring, I always come to the same conclusion: the topics discussed are not or hardly visualised. As a result, the participants often, too often, move on to a deluge of "I find", "I think" or "I believe" statements. Therefore, this blog, in the hope of helping the reader to use data and especially graphs to make decisions in the future.
The real reason for this blog is an often-recurring observation from recent years. I have the honour and pleasure of regularly rewarding one of my trainees for the project he has completed with a certificate. Of course, I always ask a few tough questions to reinforce this moment and especially to offer the other people present a learning moment as well. A question that almost always recurs is the following: "What was the aha moment for you during your project?" Over the past few months, I did a quick data-analyse on the answers and more than 80% of the answers contained the word data or a reference to it. In other words, successful process improvement projects are successful because they use data and graphs and do not let their analyses and improvements depend on emotions and opinions. I know from experience that this is not only valid for projects but also for day-to-day business and reporting.
In the coming weeks, I will regularly publish a sequel to this introduction in which I will discuss the different categories of graphs. In each case, I will give advice on when to use them and when not to.