How Good Are Your Data? (The Importance of Accurate and Complete Measurements)

We Can Not Improve What We Do Not Measure


People have been measuring things since the dawn of civilization. In today’s technology development world we spend a great deal of time building dashboards that seek to present meaningful data. Since corporate leaders use this data to make business decisions, it is imperative that we ensure the information we present is accurate and complete.
Problems we encounter while relating numerical values to things in the physical world are not new. William Thompson, better known as Lord Kelvin, spoke and wrote about this subject in detail. 

“… the first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.”

William Thompson, 1st Baron Kelvin (aka Lord Kelvin)

Lecture on “Electrical Units of Measurement” (3 May 1883), published in Popular Lectures Vol. I, p. 73

Lord Kelvin was speaking about the physical sciences, but the point seems applicable to 21st century technology development as well. Many of us have heard the part of this quote that essentially says, ‘You can not improve what you do not measure.’ After reading the entire quotation, I was struck by the fact that in the business world, we seem to have overlooked the ‘first essential step’, which is to find a quality connected with a subject and a practicable method of measurement.

So how are you doing in your world? Are your measurements accurate? Are they complete? Finally, do the things that we spend time and energy measuring matter in our business? Leave a comment to get the conversation started!

Bob Hubbard, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
AT&T | Technology Development
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Did you Forget About What Motivates People?

This 2009 TED talk is just as topical today as it was then. This is a great message.

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

TED Talk: Dan Pink, What Really Motivates Us?

DMAIC: A great consulting tool

Bob Hubbard:

You don’t have to be a Six Sigma Black Belt to use DMAIC for problem solving. Whether you are an external big business consultant, or a new manager looking to improve performance, DMAIC should be in your toolbox.

Originally posted on Consultants Mind:

DMAICDMAIC.  Ask any consultant, and I mean ANY consultant (strategy, process, IT) and they will know what DMAIC stands for.  It is an abbreviation  for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.  It is a tool often used in process improvement projects.  I am not a fan of jargon, but this one is worth learning, and using.  It’s good and keeps you on task.

If you hired a consultant and they used a five-box slide that looks like the one below to explain a project approach. . . chances are good it is some derivation of DMAIC .

DMAIC - Consulting blogWe use because it is simple, logical, and a good starting point.

D = Define. You need to define what problem you are looking at, and what your goal is.  Without this step, you might be solving the wrong problem (happens all the time).

M = Measure

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Things that are complex don’t have easy answers… unless you are God

Trial, Error and the God Complex

Tim Harford gives a great talk on how business really works. Bottom line, if you are trying to fix complex problems, find a structure that helps you quickly implement, assess, and measure the effectiveness of your actions.

Understanding Your Process as Collaborative Knowledge Discovery

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Bob Hubbard:

Collaboration is a catchall buzzword that many leaders are adopting these days. They seem to understand that it is difficult for groups of people who are located all across the globe to work together as a highly effective team. Talking about the need to work collaboratively is great… but until the way work gets done changes, collaboration will remain a buzzword.

This post puts forth kanban as a way to facilitate collaboration. I am a huge advocate of kanban, having seen it first hand. I’m anxious to hear your take on this article. Sign in and comment!

Originally posted on Connected Knowledge:

There is a general trend and desire to make work more collaborative. Yet when I ask teams to draw a diagram of how they work, they often come up with something like this (I’m simplifying it):

Boxes and arrows. Functional specialists hand off work to each other back and forth as they try to deliver something.
In this view, the workers form an assembly line. But their work doesn’t really flow like an assembly line. For example, a Software Developer may find a logical inconsistency in a feature specification and send the work back to a Business Analyst. A Quality Assurance specialist may do the same when testing the implemented software. The BA will update the spec and send the work back to QA. QA may find a bug in it and send the work back to the Developer. The Deployment Specialist may find something in the code to be an impediment to deployment. The Developer then makes the necessary change. The code now needs retesting, so it goes back…

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‘Dirty Jobs’ Star Mike Rowe Says, ‘Safety …. Third’

Dirty_Jobs_Mike_Rowe.jpgOriginally posted by Kate O’Hare in November of 2009

Today’s cuppa: Mystic Monk Decaf Chocolate Mint Coffee (just for the flavor, then chased with full-caf office coffee)As any fan of Discovery Channel’s“Dirty Jobs” knows, Mike Rowe has his own view of the world and is not afraid to ruffle feathers (of course, he’s willing to do a lot more to farm animals than ruffle their feathers, but that’s a conversation for another time).

For example, the whole idea of green –specifically, the choice of that color to represent environmental awareness — irks him.

“Any fundamentally good idea,”he says, “is just a committee or two from being perverted into something that’s off-kilter.”

As a man who spends most of his working life caked in grime, Rowe always puts brown before green (he explains more about that at his website,

“We’re right with green,” Rowe says, “in terms of, obviously, what we’d like to see as an outcome — a healthy planet. No one’s opposed to that. But every single thing that ‘Jobs’ comes in touch with, I’m starting to realize, is essentially an opportunity to try to bring things back to a balance.

“So by putting brown before green, you know the whole argument, but it’s in a larger sense with work. If we’re disconnected from the environment, and we’re confused by the wrong choice of color, all of this pandemonium surrounding the issue makes sense.

“If our relationship with work is equally dysfunctional, and we’re confused by the definition of a good job, then that part of the DNA of the show starts to make sense.”

Read the entire post here:

John Shook on the Essence of Lean Thinking

This is a great overview of lean thinking brought to you by John Shook!

A Lean Transformation Model Everyone Can Use

 January 23, 2014 by Joshua Rapoza
Last week I had the good fortune to film John Shook explain LEI’s Transformation Model. This is the model LEI coaches use to guide lean transformations with our partner companies, large and small, across a wide range of industries.

About a year or so ago our mission here at LEI changed from “Advance lean thinking throughout the world” to “Make things better through lean thinking and practice”. I’m a huge fan of this change because so much of what we do here is about, quite simply, making things better. What better way to advance Lean than to show the difference it’s made in the world for people, organizations, and businesses? I firmly believe LEI’s Lean Transformation Model makes things better, whatever the industry. Or better yet, it helps people make things better for other people (employees and customers alike).

What I love about Shook’s explanation of LEI’s Transformation Model is that he makes it relatable without dumbing it down. Simplifying complex ideas is one of the hardest things to do.

In his recent e-letter Shook offers the same 5 key questions for transformation:

1) What is the purpose of the change–what true north and value are we providing, or simply: what problem are we trying to solve?

2) How are we improving the actual work?

3) How are we building capability?

4) What leadership behaviors and management systems are required to support this new way of working?

5) What basic thinking, mindset, or assumptions comprise the existing culture, and are we driving this transformation?

Interestingly, these are all questions we asked ourselves at LEI when developing our new mission.

Here’s a link to the e-letter by John Shook, and I highly recommend viewing the video below on the transformation model we use here at LEI. Its about 9 minutes long, so you may want to set aside some time to watch it, but it’s something I suspect the lean community will be learning from and sharing with each other (and making their own?) for years to come.

Shook will be delivering a more detailed Lean Transformation Model presentation at this year’s Lean Transformation Summit in Orlando on March 5 & 6.

Original posting on <;