What do you do if you need data to make leadership decisions, but your in-house systems don’t have perfect data?
This was a question with which the team in which I work wrestled last week.
An answer can be found here. The bottom lines are this:
- Trying to make leadership decisions based upon incomplete data is probably better than trying to make them using no data at all.
- If you make decisions based upon imperfect data that affects the people who provided you with the data, then the people who provided the data will improve its accuracy for future decision making.
One of the most senior managers in our organization reinforced this in a story he told me last year. As a regional leader he wanted to allocate funds within the organization. He knew that the data describing the parts of the organization under his authority was not reliable. But, the data represented, was collected, and was entered into the database by the staff who worked for him. He used this (unreliable) data anyway, and allocated funds according to it. People complained. However, the completeness of the data entered into the database increased dramatically. The next year, the appropriate data was available to make good decisions that everyone knew were fair.
So, in conclusion, when leading strategically to cause an organization to most effectively accomplish a vision use the data you have rather then ignore it because it is not perfect.
This is great, however I struggle with making decisions based on unreliable data. First, why should someone provide unreliable? It is either not convinced of what is being asked for or the procedure is not right. The key is to lead with data (whether good or bad).