How to Make Data Dumps Useful

A frustrated manager commented, “Every morning I get three spreadsheets of data that includes customer inquiries, products shipped by brand and territory, average purchase per order, remaining inventory days, daily inventory shrinkage, and many other items.”

“We are in the age of ‘big data,’” I responded. “Are these reams of numbers helpful?” 

“It’s too much. There is information that is helpful, but I must scan through a maze of columns and rows to isolate what I need. Most days I don’t even open the file.”

“Have you voiced your concerns to the data collectors?”

“Yes, but I have had little influence over the process.”

In his 1982 book, Megatrends, author John Naisbitt wrote, “We are drowning in information but starving for knowledge.”  Naisbitt’s insight is even more true today. To make sense of the flood of statistics invading your hard drive, consider the following.

Decide on the data that is most important for tracking progress toward you team’s mission. Learn the location of the data so that you can quickly locate it. Extract the data, or color the critical numbers in green, and distribute to your team on a regular (weekly) basis. In team meetings, report and briefly comment on the 3-4 most important data points. Evolve and modify as needed.

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