Friday, November 25, 2005

The data-driven organisation - an allegorical tale...

An economic development agency can’t understand why drop-out rates for its training programmes for unemployed young people are so high. So they commission a survey to find out, spending £100,000 on consultants to survey training programme participants and drop outs, conduct focus groups and research with a final report.


A little bit of intelligence work on the local and national economy suggests that at the present time, more and more young people are staying in formal education, and the labour market offers fairly good job opportunities and prospects for young people, whether unemployed or just leaving school. Anecdotal feedback from training providers tells the agency that the entrants into the training programmes are people who cannot continue in education or cannot access jobs – they are the least qualified, and least employable young people. The training programmes were originally designed to cope with the average unemployed young person 20 years ago, and not aimed at those who have more acute problems in attaining qualifications and accessing work. Therefore the training programme does not meet the needs of the client group today, as it did 20 years ago. The issue is that the labour market has changed, while the training programme has stayed the same. Spending a few days finding this out is cheaper and provides more insight than commissioning a £100,000 research project.


The moral is that gathering intelligence on its own doesn’t provide you with answers. You must go one step further and ask what intelligence is telling you about your activities, the market and environment that you operate in. Initially, its best to analyse information already at hand to see if it answers your questions than to go and collect more and more data.


This analyst gets angry!

I have lost count the number of times that I, or a colleague, have been administering and delivering a survey for a range of economic development organisations and they have asked for a bigger sample for their local area – AND – they have not been able to justify or give any rationale for the survey boost! Say the survey boost costs £100,000 and there is no reason for it – what’s the point? Then the local agencies tell us that its not accurate enough for local purposes - we ask ‘for what local purposes?’ – too often they couldn’t come up with any answer.

But – before we get too bolshy – people often have great difficulty expressing their needs and why they want things. A good analyst gets to the bottom of this need, if there is one. A good analyst asks the questions ‘what do you want the extra sample boost for?’ – as it tells them where the client or partner is coming from. And then the answer may not lie in a sample boost at all.


At 2:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

<< Home