Technology facilitates the collection of vast amounts of data. Some of the information people collect is vital to managing personal, organizational, and even global resources. However, humans collect far more data than they can process, and even the data we can pay attention to often fail to endorse current practices or leverage change. What every decision needs, are the right data, organized with human response in mind.
The term “Data Driven” is applied to about every profession and business, but many decision makers struggle to make it a reality. It’s easy to understand that a carpenter should measure before cutting. Twice, as I recall. But what about more complex systems? Consider dieting to lose weight. Of course, you should stand on the scale before you start your diet. But you should also track your weight regularly and compare those numbers to your goal. You might have additional targets in mind: body dimensions, blood pressure, mood, sleep quality, etc. What about the inputs: calorie intake, nutrients, exercise time and intensity? And there may be other measures of adherence that influence your progress: when you eat and exercise, when you go to bed and get up, and more. It can get complicated, but it can also inform real change and measurable results. Just knowing that you are overweight won’t do that.
So what is true data driven decision making? Here is a process we think illustrates being data driven:
Determine Need – First, identify what needs attention. So often, we think we know the need before the first piece of evidence is considered. There are many ways of determining need, but all of them require the collection and synthesis of opinions from various participants. This is your first data source.
Identify Target – Now that you have collected data from your participants, use those data to prioritize targets for intervention. This could be anything from improving relationships between clients or making sure facility staff are better trained. We have worked with organizations that got this far and still wanted to focus on non-problems. Typically, this means pet peeves or stuff experienced by only a few people. Obviously, if you want to be data driven, this is your first opportunity.
Select Intervention – Next, select a treatment strategy. For too many professionals this is a lot like choosing toilet tissue. They all seem to serve the same function, so pick the cheapest one. Ouch. Be picky, and make sure that the strategy is functionally related to your target.
Establish Goals – Establish goals. Without goals, there is no point to this exercise. So many efforts at changing therapy or management practices have failed simply because there were no measurable goals attached. Establish goals, understanding that they might need readjustment later, and make them measurable.
Document Methods – Because of funding, personnel, or training limitations, truly evidence-based interventions are diluted before they get to clients or staff in their natural habitat. Figure out how the intervention will start and stay at full strength for every target, and how you will know this to be true. This is your method.
Common Understanding – Establish a common understanding of your data. I could have called this step, “summarize progress,” but that’s only part of what needs to happen here. Data can be a chore to manage. Someone must gather, organize, tally, and summarize whatever data are part of your methods. One more thing must happen, however, and that is whatever is created to communicate the state of the intervention and its consequences must contribute to a common understanding.
Adjust Intervention – Finally, when data have been summarized for common consumption, you now have your second chance at being data driven. As long as goals are reasonable, and progress is being made, keep going, but if not, rethink and adjust.
By now it should be obvious that Tetra Outcomes is perfect for creating a data driven environment. Our data help establish needs, identify intervention targets and goals, inform intervention choices, encourage valid methods, and most importantly; gather and organize data that facilitates a common understanding and informs progress toward goals.
Tetra Outcomes is a secure online data collection tool that presents a simple-to-complete inventory and an easy-to-understand report. Clients are asked to complete the inventory every week, and facility employees complete their version of the inventory once per month. Facility management can log into the secured report at any time to see current and past data.
The survey is short for both clients and employees, but clients are additionally asked to provide weekly reports about their ability to tend to treatment as well as daily wants and needs. Clients can take this opportunity to inform professionals about the symptoms and issues they face weekly, and how those issues might be preventing their progress.
The research is abundantly clear, that when, and only when decision makers are data driven, their world can change for the better. Tetra Outcomes was created to provide decision makers with the right data.