Data vs. Facts, Illustrated
There are two expressions that get used often in the lean world, one from Dr. W. Edwards Deming and one from Toyota's Taiichi Ohno. Dr. Deming was quoted as saying (even if he didn't originate it):
“In God we trust, all others bring data.”
“Data is of course important in manufacturing, but I place the greatest emphasis on facts.”
Ohno emphasized not relying on reports, but instead going to the “gemba” – a Japanese term that means “workplace” or “the actual place.”
Thanks to one of my favorite funny blogs, Failblog.org, I found a picture that illustrates it perfectly:
Here's a sign that's clearly wrong, given the snow on the ground. Is there a risk in our organizations, whether a factory or a hospital, that the data (in the form of a report or an electronic system) that we rely in data that's inadvertently incorrect? What if someone was making a decision based on a “management dashboard” that said it was 119 degrees outside?
In John Shook's class yesterday, he talked about facts – what do you know and how do you know it? So you think it's 119 degrees outside in January? How do you know that? From a report? Hmmm, not good enough. Go to the gemba. Do you feel the temperature first hand?
This is an old story from the 1995-1996 time frame, but it's one of my favorite GM war stories – how the plant production superintendent was fooled by perpetually faked data. I wrote about it 2007 in “GM Got Gamed.” The superintendent never went to the gemba in a meaningful way, he never saw the “fact” that production rarely hit a consistent 60 engine blocks per hour the way the faked data showed.
Do things like this happen in your organization?