Posts Tagged ‘data’

Smart(er) Measures

July 1, 2015

math

Which of these challenges is most important to solve: teen pregnancy, hunger, diabetes, or drunk driving?

Where should we focus time and money to improve lives and our communities?

Just as sports and commerce have been recast by data, the health field is leading the way for different mental models that help us calculate value in the social sector. In the US last year, more than 600,000 people died from heart disease while about 75,000 died from diabetes. Does that make heart disease eight times worse than diabetes?

We’re well aware death is inevitable. Still, many conditions aren’t terminal but very costly for individuals and society. In fact, the non-fatal conditions account for the vast majority of health costs. With this rationale, health economists have created new measures. One is a unit identified as “disability-adjusted life years” or DALYs. DALYs calculate the years of healthy life. A DALY is generated by identifying the years of life lost when a person dies (compared with a projected average without the condition). Then, the total years lived with a disability are tallied. A DALY is generated based on estimates of how nonfatal conditions detract from perfect health.

Using this new measurement unit, one can rank health problems. For example, in 2012, scientists reported 200,000 more deaths by lung cancer than traffic accidents worldwide. But, when calculated in DALYs, road injuries are far worse. Most lung cancer deaths are among older folks. Those who tend to die in car accidents with frequency are young – in their 20s and 30s. Importantly, road injuries cause about 40 times more disabilities when people survive them. Should we invest in anti-smoking or road safety campaigns?

Mexico has moved to this kind of analysis for treatments. Now, childhood cancer treatments and emergency care for car accidents are high priorities. Australia has also used DALYs to focus on childhood obesity and other issues. The application of DALYs in the US identifies low back pain, depression and anxiety as enormous health concerns. They generate substantial costs because of prevalence along with significant pain and suffering.

New statistics offer different and valuable viewpoints. They can threaten the status quo. Capable leaders use them to support change and progress. DALYs are a great example of how, with new measures, we can enable rational decisions. Isn’t that smarter? In fact, it can affect how we live and die.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and managing partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

A Blinding Blizzard

March 23, 2015

blizzard

Blinded by the data blizzard?

In 2014, this volume of data was produced, each minute:

  • 204 million email messages were sent
  • Google received more than 4 million search queries
  • 2.46 million pieces of content were shared on Facebook
  • 277,000 tweets were sent, along with 48,000 apps downloaded
  • 26,380 reviews were posted on Yelp! and 216,000 photos posted on Instagram
  • 3,472 images were pinned to Pinterest, and
  • 72 hours of new video were uploaded to YouTube

In Digital Destiny, Shawn DuBravac, PhD, reminds us there’s no need to remember these figures. They are obsolete. The quantities are far greater today. However, these facts show something very important: the huge scale and speed of data production.

Data is everywhere in your organization, community, home and life. Managing effectively depends on measuring accurately. The careful use of data sets strategy, creates programs, provides feedback, shows potential for improvement and displays  outcomes.

With increasing frequency, we see metrics, indicators and findings mis-used. To support a conclusion or point of view, some people consciously (and unconsciously) will generate or select data to suit their purpose. It’s a strong way to market any message.

There’s no public or private “regulator” that practically sorts this for you. The volume and quality of data used across many contexts presents tremendous challenges for those with little measurement experience or awareness.

Professionals who handle data routinely know and practice ethical standards for data use. What can you do? Here’s a start: listen to skeptics; trust your intuition; ask hard questions to challenge assumptions, methods and sources; read more about metrics; understand limitations in findings; secure an independent review by an ethical evaluator.

Data can be very powerful in the right hands, heads and hearts. Because of this, every manager-leader needs data literacy.  Sorting out the signals from the noise is a vital skill in demonstrating value, for learning and creating change.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Avoid The Ugly Grip Of Groupthink

May 4, 2014

sheep

Beware when a group assumes we know everything we need to know.

Why?

Not long ago big US banks and other financial institutions sold risky derivatives. They were high-risk sub-prime mortgages divided into investment “opportunities.” After the economic meltdown they created, a salesman was asked who would want to buy these. He replied: “Idiots.”

History shows very smart people discard clear signals about value and risk. In the desire for a big return, investors chose to emphasize what could support their choice; they ignored evidence. It blossomed into self-deception and then spread among peers. This is groupthink. It is dangerous because the focus is on protecting an unfounded treasured opinion. This ensures shared blind spots and ultimately generates bad decisions. In contrast, a healthy team provides multiple perspectives in candid, independent contributions. When information flows freely – it is more likely good decisions are made.

Because it’s effective and predictable, groupthink is consciously engineered. Too often it happens in crucial personnel selection and civic cheerleading that obfuscates challenges or accountability. A classic example was the decision to invade Iraq based on imaginary “weapons of mass destruction.” Sexism and racism rely on groupthink, too. They are efforts to protect a position that become habitual and are normalized.

Groupthink can happen in any situation where decision-makers are insulated. One or several things occur to feed it. The group is fooled by unreliable people, there’s failure to ask provoking questions and data is ignored (or skewed).The risks of insulation underscores the value of transparency. Because self-deception is so common, consciously steering past shared blind spots is vital in managing for results.

We can disarm the grim implications of groupthink by these tactics:

• Ask others to think about their thinking (meta-cognition),

• Spotlight what might get buried by bias, indifference or suppression,

• Assure quality information from multiple methods,

• Actively seek diverse as well as contrary opinion, and

• Surface assumptions.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Who’s In Your Way?

February 9, 2014

shadow

Leading and managing others is a social process. Anyone “out front” faces common obstacles in creating change. To be effective with others, it’s helpful to consider what might be disabling you.

These six questions can identify potential pitfalls. Each requires conscious navigation.

1. What’s that smell?

Understanding the air you and others breathe is essential. You must be able to identify the quality of the “oxygen” around you to influence it. Establishing great culture happens by getting the right folks on board with healthy, functional norms. Root out toxic behavior. When necessary, quickly change out people. Humans have an enormous capacity for delusion, avoidance and denial – especially if self-interest is threatened. Discerning and driving air quality is foundational.

2. Are you a learner?

How you see the world and what informs it is crucial to framing problems as well as their resolution. To ensure perspective, it’s important to actively seeking new knowledge and opinions. A small circle of external advisors can offer extraordinary insights. Being blind to your blind spots is a costly limitation.  Think about your thinking. What could you be missing? Do you know what you don’t know?

3. Are you uncomfortable?

People want familiar and safe. More accurately, we seek what we perceive as comfortable. Regrettably, thinking and behaving in new ways is uncomfortable. To generate forward action, it’s essential to risk and live outside your comfort zone. This pitfall is deep and one of the most common reasons communities and organizations don’t move. Progress requires risk. It must matter more than control. And, that’s not comfortable.

4. Do you have broad shoulders?

Very little important work happens alone.  We need rivals, allies and others involved to secure the best and most progress. How much do you value diverse skills and experiences? Do you invite and engage others in important work? Involve people who think deeply – they are different than those with flip opinions. Be intentional about discovering ways to connect resources and talent that contributes.

5. Is your motive “good”?

Clarifying the underlying motivation for the process and results you seek is important. Because others are quick to judge, knowing your own intention matters a lot. Be sure your ego or “me-victory” isn’t primary. Populist rhetoric won’t sustain important efforts but authentic commitment will.

6. Are you measuring?

Collect data routinely. Simple questions can guide assessment: What’s working? What isn’t? Why? Focus on the right indicators at the right time. Recognize development occurs in stages that may not be linear. Consider the pace, progress, and implications. Then, adapt actions.

Great culture, learning, discomfort, terrific teams, authenticity and active monitoring are big factors in generating change. Take your own inventory today.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Avoid Strategy Sabotage

October 22, 2012

A primary challenge in strategy development is anticipating the future – correctly. It’s a tall order. Strategy creates public and private value. It’s central to every organization and team.

Determining the actions most likely to secure your intended results employs strategic planning. Creating strategy, for a program or entire organization, generally requires a series of explicit steps. While a routine function, the process of strategy development offers plenty of opportunity for error.

In this list, I’ve noted the most common “sins.” Consider these as you guard against missteps and improve the quality of your strategy development.

1. Failure to know where you are now. Clarity about your current situation is essential if you are pointing towards a new target. Strategy has everything to do with decisions about the optimal route for the outcome you intend. If you don’t know the current situation then you have no good data on how to create forward action. Shaky ground isn’t equal to a solid foundation – so it’s vital to get this part right.

2. Difficulty in detecting patterns. Your “read” of the context and forecast for the future is important to analysis, interpretation and application. Seeing patterns and anticipating new ones are vital to strategy development. Testing whether others “see” things the same or different and knowing why is a good idea.

3. Lack of choice points. A clear specification of issues and their perceived implications are vital in strategy development. Framing both the challenges which impede progress and the context which will catalyze motion are critical to decisions about forward actions.

4. Unwillingness to acknowledge bias. We all have opinions and perspectives based on prior experience and training. How deeply these are held and whether we can accommodate and explore new mental models affects the discussions and review of strategy. Being aware of bias can mitigate it.

5. Absence of actionable measures. A few and the right measures are important as touchstones for determining progress. To inform decisions or actions, measurement must be part of any strategy. It provides feedback data to confirm existing direction and to indicate necessary course corrections. Winston Churchill said it.” However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

6. Reluctance to review capacity. It’s possible to desire a new outcome, but the potential for achieving it relies heavily on what assets your program or organization has in hand for execution. Do you have the skillful talent integral to the work ahead as well along with the financial resources and time to make results a real possibility? An “internal audit” will surface both needs and assumptions about organization/team capacity that are key to strategy success.

7. Inadequate engagement. Who participates in strategy development matters a lot. It’s also vital to the subsequent socialization and implementation of strategy. Be sure dissent and minority opinions are aired to “kick” strategy. Careful consideration should be given to who participates and when in your process.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com.

10 Good Questions on Strategy

July 30, 2012

We all face external factors that change fast, frequently and unpredictably. Regardless of sector, work is intensely dynamic. Are your strategy development and related planning processes responsive enough?

Re-tool and Refine

Strategy marshals the resources and actions that enable an organization to secure intended results. Strategy is crucial to the decisions that guide any program or organization. More and more, experts suggest the effort on strategy should equal that spent on operations. Getting strategy “right” matters a lot.

Analysis, Inclusion, Speed

Old routines, inadequate sensing, biased inputs, erroneous assumptions, poor timing, delays and other complexities in strategy development can severely limit program and organizational potential. Creating a clear, disciplined process for strategy that considers diagnosis to commitment, execution and assessment is fundamental. Better strategy and strategic management values analysis, inclusion and speed.

Strategy Development

Here are ten good questions to use as you retool strategy to improve performance:

  • What outcomes define success for your organization?
  • Who holds responsibility for strategy?
  • What are your key issues, critical decisions, data and uncertainties?
  •  What framework exists for colleagues to inform, develop, implement and revise strategy?
  • How are strategic priorities named and resources allocated?
  • What internal communications are used to effectively express strategy and related plans?
  • How are cross-organizational projects handled?
  • Are savvy, fast decisions made through clear processes to support strategy?
  • How are directors/trustees and partners involved in the development and execution of strategy?
  • How is the implementation of strategy and related plans tracked?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Quality Cognition: Fast and Slow

March 5, 2012

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested $1.7 billion in the creation of small schools in recent years. Intuitively, it’s easy to make the case why a small school can provide superior education. You could conclude lower staff-to-student ratios with personal attention and encouragement are a better alternative to the context of a large school.

The foregoing might describe a logical relationship but it’s not accurate.

In fact, according to studies, large schools tend to produce better results. When a variety of curriculum options are available, especially in higher grades, large schools yield greater student success. Some important details were overlooked in the initial conclusion of “small is better.” In planning work, a survey of more than 1600 schools was used. The survey sample had an over representation of small schools. Both a pattern and logic contributed to a preliminary error.

Pursue Good Questions

Had questions been asked about the characteristics of the worst schools – it may have been discovered that those, too, were small. Ultimately statisticians demonstrated that small schools are more variable in student success. In effect, student achievement in small schools can be both very good and very bad. Regardless, the variability and scale in small schools may be a far better context for improvement. (We’ve had the privilege of experience with the Gates Foundation. No doubt: their small school funding has had substantial social benefit.)

 Fast and Slow

Humans think in both fast and slow modes. Daniel Kahneman refers to these modes as System 1 and 2. The thoughtful, careful analysis you used to review the Gates story, cited in  Kahneman’s book, uses System  2. Through precise and deliberate effort you considered the descriptive narrative.

In contrast, System 1 is nearly instant. For example, it helps you quickly respond to a loud noise or simple, verbal sentence. It is most simply understood as a reaction. Often, this is based on impulse. We all need to make quality decisions and plans – whether instantly or over time.

Patterns, Chance and Humility

Because humans are predisposed to causal thinking, we look for patterns and associated explanations first. We can easily make mistakes. Our mind prefers perceptions of an ordered, coherent world. But, these can be cognitive illusions.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman urges us to recognize “many facts are due to chance.” The definition of chance is humbling because it means random events cannot be explained. It’s important to look for patterns and cause while we also acknowledge chance.

Deliberate Quality

The implications of this reality has influence on the potential for our effectiveness. It may be important to: listen better, do enough diligent discovery, understand key factors, and explore alternative hypotheses. It is essential that we review data more carefully for validity and reliability.

Fast and slow thinking are both important to our complex work environments. Consider meta-cognition a quality check. Think about your own thinking and that of others. Be careful enough you sidestep either a foregone or logical conclusion which may be wrong.

 –Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

In Praise of the “Datavore*”

January 18, 2011

* [dey-tuh -vohr, dat-uh -vohr]def 1. -noun. One who devours data for decisions.
—————————————————————————
Hunches or gut-feel are great but to accomplish ambitious agendas we need data. It is like oxygen.The teams, organizations, boards, colleagues and clients we work with need it.

Whether promoting or defending your cause it’s important to understand and use data in your work. Data provides confidence in description and measurement. Measuring and managing go hand in hand. To pursue and secure performance, it’s important to both understand and use data in decisions. Data serves (at least) three critical functions that matter hugely in your workplace: (1) to set direction, (2) to monitor and manage adaptation, (3) to define impact.

Direction and Description
Descriptive data profiles your key challenges or need, capacity, the environment and trends. Inputs on these factors advance strategy formulation especially if you seek differentiation or market niche. In any sector, data helps you understand your target markets with precision. It helps to solve the “what works under what conditions” puzzle. Data also provides reconnaissance on competitors, indicates progress and specifies results.

Whether you manage a program, function or an entire organization measuring is integral because it offers vital feedback. Monitoring your program or organization status is best done via something other than whim or fancy. While intuition is valuable – it can be bolstered or discarded with facts. Data provides a compass reading. If you know where you are, it’s far easier to correct, revise or redirect to get where you want to go.

Well-informed Judgments
Although too quickly associated only with educational testing or personnel reviews – evaluation has a vast range of potential use and contributions. Valid and credible evaluation relies heavily on data. Effective managers and leaders make evaluative assessments constantly.

Evaluation is the intentional use of information to support a relative judgment. It can be used as a vital gauge for your most critical choices. Capable managers must be able specify an evaluation system. Any system starts with information needs, users and appropriate indicators. Be sure your evaluation approach includes both formative and summative aspects. Formative focuses real-time on your processes, actions and operations. Summative evaluation refers to the status of outcomes or results. Collectively, over time, these comprise impact.

Friend not Foe
The original Latin noun for data means “something given.” While most people aren’t as delighted as I am when the new edition of Pocket World in Figures (The Economist) arrives — working on your “data digestion” will only improve your management acumen. Your work as a manager and leader requires powerful, viable tools and techniques. Data is far more often a friend than foe. The best advice? Fall in love with data.

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more, see : http://www.pwkinc.com

Look for Hay in your Haystack

October 6, 2010

Every day you and your colleagues experience an “infolanche.” Quite simply an avalanche of information pours in to your desk through the phone and computer hour after hour each day.  Skillful navigation of this overload is critical to progress. Digging out is a big job. This deluge creates yet another challenge to managing and leading.

What’s the right information for your attention?

Focus, Focus, Focus

Our resident psychometrician often suggests that clients “look for hay in your haystack.” Before  launching a hurried search begin with careful thought. In a recent preschool literacy evaluation we conducted the standard for performance was a score of 62. One of the exciting programs we assessed scored 58. Did it fail? By the explicit federal standard it did. By any other measure, it was a huge success. How could that be?

Before the literacy intervention, children entering the program were tested by several valid and reliable tools. After a school year of experience with the program, children were tested again. They showed substantial gains, in fact, statistically significant changes in pre-literacy awareness, knowledge and skills. The program was effective but risked discard because a pre-determined value was not secured. Moreover, by analyzing student gains by teacher, it became obvious which teachers had delivered a high quality “dose” with fidelity to program design. This provided the clues on which teacher’s could improve and how they needed to adapt their instruction practice.

Great Questions Matter

Asking great questions is the first most important step sorting your haystack. Great questions guide data navigation towards high value information. Specification of your information needs can focus your data collection, analysis and interpretation.  How you frame your inquiry matters lots. In the preceding example, the right question was: Did the program positively affect literacy skills? It would be an error to “quit early” and simple ask: Did we make the standard score?

Data-driven decisions are the new daily bread. There’s plenty of information to use and confuse  us. The next time you review data, recognize what vital clues it provides for the challenges your organization faces . If you are clear about what questions must be explored, it will help you sort your pile.

Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also a W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. For more information, see : www.pwkinc.com


%d bloggers like this: