Just the Facts, Ma’am

Anyone remember Dragnet?  Sergeant Friday would interview witnesses of some sort of crime and was simply looking for what happened in fact and now what was based on assumption and hearsay.  This classic show was a staple of my entertainment when was very young.  In the sports world there is a growing trend toward focusing more heavily on the facts, the statistics.  In the movie, Moneyball, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane is portrayed as an executive who analyzed past stats as a way to put his team together in a methodical, logical way.  He focused on the team’s needs and used what would become termed “sabermetrics” to put his team together.  He tried to take some of the emotion and assumption out of his decisions for the betterment of his franchise.

Some teams in the National Football League follow this practice.  The Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry used computers years ago to analyze players and their contributions each Sunday.  There has been some talk that Doug Marrone and Doug Whaley of the Buffalo Bills have moved in that direction.  Many organizations, agencies and businesses as asking for the same thing…just the facts.  Evidence-based practice is a critical component to the success of many businesses and non-profits.  Any statistician would tell you that the facts tell stories.  In fact, the numbers often tell THE story.

Does this mean that intuition and instinct play no part in decision making? Of course, not.  Humans will always make decisions based on feel.  The issue at hand is not whether executives and managers should ignore their feelings when they make decisions.  That will never and should not happen.  The bigger question is whether anyone has taken the time to research the facts surrounding their decisions.  Are they asking questions like, ‘Is this an outdated form or procedure?’  How are they defining success?  Are certain forms no longer serving their intended functions?  If so, why?  The biggest questions can often be answered by analyzing facts and numbers.

When you miss the facts, you put your organization in jeopardy. Doing things “the way they have always been done” without asking the critical questions regarding efficacy and understanding what the facts are saying and defining success is asking for failure.  Evidence-based practice is here to stay.  Sergeant Friday would be so pleased.

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