“Opinion Data” Still Prevails in the US

When power and hierarchy run an organization ideology, opinion and assumption become the staples of decision-making.  The loud mouth with position becomes the voice of direction . . . but hardly reason, logic or truth.  I have long used the phrase “opinion data” to describe the phenomenon used in executive and other management meetings.  This, of course, is an oxymoron as no data exists.

“In God we trust, all others use data” – W. Edwards Deming

The lack of relevant data I find in organizations is astounding.  Unless you want budget/financial data or other useless data in lagging measures that can’t tell us how to improve only how to keep score.  The result is opinion data prevails in corporate America and no where is it more prevalent then in the executive ranks far away from the work and measures that matter.

Too many IT organizations are selling Business Intelligence (BI) systems that lack one important ingredient – intelligence.  More of the wrong data that doesn’t matter to customers or to what actually makes profit. Data should help lead to better decisions, work designs and profit.  Data can help uncover facts, but here in the US . . . they do not.

Data needs context and only those that interact with customers in service industry can give us context.  No knowledge of the work, will give you no useful data.  How often might you find management in the work? Never mind an executive.  No knowledge of the work leads to bad decisions, poor work designs and lower (if any) profit.  Management reports are a poor substitute for knowledge.

Conversely, I have seen multiple front-line workers find a problem or set of problems that require management intervention and the need for data to get what they need to do their job requires reems of data for justification.  Lower in the hierarchy, workers fill out forms and are scrutinized by management lackeys.  It is what Ross Perot might describe as “forming a committee on snakes, rather than killing the snake.”

Opinion data will some day be viewed as an archaic management practice.  However, where power and hierarchy rule the day . . . facts become an obstacle.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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