All Business Data is Intentionally Misleading

Improvement Insights Blog

All Business Data is Intentionally Misleading

This Sunday’s Dilbert hit the nail on the head:

Actually, you don’t even have to type. I’ve seen Six Sigma gurus use Minitab generate fake data to demonstrate a concept during a training. The fake data is statistically in control and indistiguishable from real data. Excel will let you generate random data.

This is what scares me about what we’re teaching students in business school. It’s too easy to create fake data. Isn’t this a symptom of what caused Wall Street to melt down?

Everyone I talk to in healthcare says that the medical mistakes and errors data are systematically underreported by a factor of 2-to-4. In 1999, To Err is Human, reported that 99,000 people a year died in hospitals due to a medical mistake. More recent data shows that every year 99,000 people die due to hospital-acquired infections alone; another 150,000 die due to surgical complications; and so on.

Face it: all business data is intentionally misleading, but since it’s systematically distorted and misleading, you can still use it to make improvements. The data is “good enough.” Stop looking for perfect data and start using what you’ve got to make improvements.

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