Monday, September 29, 2008

"Data Collection" --> When the Pressure is on to Fake Results


I’ve written about Data Collection over the years and I will provide some material in the future, but I would like to share a conversation I had with an ex-coworker earlier in the week. He is Project Managing an effort where his team members must obtain data from the rank and file workers and managers in order to succeed.

First a quote:

“The data collection process must be driven by the question that we formulate based on our needs. In short, know what the question is to be answered before collecting the data.”
- Dr. J. M. Juran

Very sound advice; so sound in my opinion that many Leaders have taken this to mean, “know what the question & answer is before collecting the data.” In other words, in today’s environment if you supply accurate negative data you will probably be asked to go look again until your boss says “yep, that’s it, I’ll send this up to the big kahunas.” Needless to say you will probably have to redo the results a few times, your boss has no idea either what they want.

Let me explain further, ever since downsizing, takeovers and mergers have become the norm, and pay for performance is the rule of thumb, collecting accurate data can be very dangerous to your health.

I'm astounded at the amount of fear that is displayed by many workers and managers. There is resistance to share data, experience, and learning’s, except to a “non-threatening” outsider (and I don’t mean consultants). Most work groups express fear of their respective leaders, internal partners and just about anyone that they have not developed a personal relationship with. This type of environment prevents process improvements and projects (i.e., establishing meaningful metrics) from being successful.

I don’t see to many end-to-end teams being successful when they are fearful to divulge improvement ideas, share their data, and communicate cross level and cross functionally (especially if each VP has his/her own objectives/personal agendas).

Fear has created a climate where only “data that is perfect” be sent up the line for publication, causing data collectors, teams and work groups additional rework and time spent getting the data right. And, let me tell you if you are not familiar with the data you are collecting or the work group you need to get the information from, plan on going down many rabbit holes before producing anything that looks like it can be used on a summary report, it will need to be put in binders. Every number to today’s worker has a name and face on it, and it looks like them!

You see, when the push for perfection and bottom line results gets combined with leadership self-esteem, you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s being proven everyday when we hear of another corporate scandal.

Does anyone realize the cost and time that goes into adhering to the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements? It’s just like inspecting quality in after the car comes off the line.

Oh yeah, you Bozos from Wall Street play a major part in all this mess (i.e., emphasis on quarterly results). To borrow a line from George Castanza “Sons-a-bitches.”


I have written many posts about the dangers of numerical goals and provided examples, especially in the education system where cheating and faking of numbers is rampant.

The following link is a story about higher education and research. One Michigan State University Professor states the reasons are Mental Health Issues, Poor Mentoring and Pressure to Produce Published Studies. WRONG!! Those are the "RESULTS."

The causes are the same in any business it's because top leaders are not doing their jobs. Passing down (delegating) unrealistic goals and time frames that are based on wishes and not fact are one reason.

The number one problem is Numerical Goals set for other people without a plan/roadmap as to how to reach the goal. Without a plan/roadmap the affects will be opposite of the intended result of the original assignment by top management.

Don't let the do-gooders fool you, Management by Results/Objectives/Outcomes are easy to implement (requires little or no skill), it requires no knowledge as to how to obtain, just a bunch of forms and opinions based on 1-2 days work at the end of the year, or a few hours prior to an assignment being delegated by upper management who continue to manage the outcomes/results not the causes.

When a Lion of a boss backs you into a corner, people don't usually come out fighting like a Lion, they first try to circumvent or confuse the Boss Lion, if that doesn't work they fake the results so they can sneak by the Boss Lion, then they wait like a "spastic" Gazelle waiting for the day the Boss Lion to pounce.


Martin said...

You are right on. I just wanted to share a couple of comments that echo what you wrote.

The question should be known and everyone involved, from the boss to the guy doing the work, should know what the question is, and there shouldn't be a "bad" answer. There could very well be answers that we don't like, and answers that point out things we want or need to change, but those are all "good" answers. There shouldn't be an answer, short of criminality or unethical conduct, that would make anyone worry about their job. The minute people start to worry about their job, they stop giving you accurate data and are no longer cooperating with your data collection.

And data collection doesn't work well if you are viewed as an outsider to the group you are gathering data from. If you aren't viewed by them as being there to help them out, to make their job better or easier, as someone who is on their side and wanting to make them be as good and look as good as they can, then you are going to have a tough time getting the accurate data you need. Also the group you are gathering data from needs to know that their upper management wants them to cooperate and provide accurate data, no matter what that data might show. Again back to the "bad" or "good" answer mentioned above.

Just my two cents worth...

qualityg says said...

martin said...

thank you for the comment, your words show someone who has experience in this endeavor. good luck.

much more valuable than 2 cents!


Anonymous said...

John Quipped. . .

I couldn't agree more with the "Martin said. . ." comments and your thoughts qualityg. In addition to not having answers someone doesn't like, data gatherers should never be told that their truthful results are "unacceptable"!! and then be told to go back and re-work the numbers! If you don't like the answer, don't ask the question!!