How to Use Data to Make Actionable Decisions

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and HR Bartender Sharlyn Lauby. Here she shares how to use the data you’re collecting to make actionable decisions.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about digital transformation and why it’s important to business. Digital transformation is about organizations getting answers through the strategic use of technology.

But once organizations get answers, they have to do something with the information. I’ve always said that one of the worst things that organizations can do is ask employees for their opinions and then do nothing with it. The same philosophy applies. It doesn’t make any sense to collect a bunch of data and then do nothing with it.

The key is making data actionable. The question becomes how to do that. I wish I could say it’s easy but it’s not. Organizations can certainly get off track thinking that collecting the data or reporting the data was enough. Here are five steps that organizations can take to make sure that they put their data to good use.

  1. Agree on what to measure. And how to measure it. The first step in making data actionable is having everyone believe the data. No one is going to react to data that they are skeptical about. The organization needs to reach consensus on what data is important, how to measure it, and where to collect it from.
  2. Regularly review the data. Not just when there’s a problem. There are two different ways to look at data. We can take a bad situation and make it good. Or we can take a good situation and make it even better. Organizations sometimes miss out on improvements because they only look at data when things aren’t going well.
  3. Create a hypothesis. Including what happens if we do nothing. Think of the data analysis and action as part of the scientific method. Organizations want to make a prediction (based on the data) that tells them what will happen if they take certain actions. Let me add that it could be helpful to also make a prediction on what will happen if no action is taken.
  4. Use agile implementation strategies. Agile is used in software development to help project teams stay on track, avoid major setbacks, and better allocate resources. The premise is to take large projects and break them down into smaller more manageable steps. After each step (or milestone), the team can evaluate their progress, and make adjustments as needed.
  5. Hold implementation teams accountable. Finally, if the goal of collecting data is to make a decision – even if that decision is to do nothing – then people need to stand by the decisions they make. The good news is that data is always changing. So new data might prompt a new decision.

Today’s technology allows us to collect good business data. We can use that data to make sound business decisions. Organizations should put a protocol in place to ensure that the data they’re collecting is put to good use.

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