Start making sense


For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on something that I find very absorbing; taking a closer look at some survey results. Ok, you say, why is this significant?

Because the survey itself has already been analysed and a summary report has been written, and for a lot of organisations that would be an end to it. Job done. We asked people what they thought, they told us, we turned it into bar charts. Pints all round, good job team. Look, we used different colours and everything!

And this is where I start to love where I work and what I do. That report, on its own, tells us almost nothing. It’s a graphic summary representation of the raw data, and that’s all it is. And the reason I’m happy is because the people I work with know that, and know that the report is just the beginning. They have questions. (I think the jargonautry is contagious.)  What does this data tell us? Why is that result so different from last year? Does that mean something? Is there anything else we need to look at more closely?

And the so far unasked question, but I know it’s coming next and I will be ready to answer it: what should we do about it?

Too often, in big organisations with a long history of stable operation, this question isn’t asked. But it’s crucial. Once we’ve extracted the intelligence from the data, what comes next? Things may need to change, and we need to work out how we make that happen. If we don’t use this exercise to improve and communicate then why did we even bother? It’s worse than not having done the survey at all. It makes it look like a token exercise, a PR stunt and nothing more. It says we pretend to care, in the most cynical possible way.

That’s not who we want to be, is it? I didn’t think so. Which is why I’m so disproportionately thrilled about being approached to take a deeper dive into the results. It’s what I do, after all: analyse, translate, explain. My inner geek is also doing the Dance of Happiness at getting her hands on some serious number-crunching, something that doesn’t come my way very often these days.

And this is why graphic representations don’t always tell you anything you didn’t already know.

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About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
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