There are vast amount of data collected in organizations and companies these days. As a data nerd myself, I have spent a fair amount of time pouring over spreadsheets and analytics. 

As I wrote about way back in dot #111None of the numbers mean anything unless they are put into context by contrasting them with something else. Knowing that headcount is X means little unless you understand how that compares to budget projections and how that number contrasts with last year. Having the enrollment-by-major is just data; it doesn’t become information until there is something to put it into context with another comparable statistic. Too many times reports are presented that only have one number without a reference point, and it does little to advance understanding.

The real key is how you react to the data you review. When you see a variance, do you prudently wait to see if things change, intentionally formulate a response or verbally panic and demand immediate action? It is an art to know which reaction is called for, and what the difference is between numbers. For some data points, a small movement is a big deal. For others, there is great fluctuation. A true leader knows what that difference is.

Learn as much as you can about the trends and patterns of your data to help you know what to do. There is a time to be prudent, proactive or to panic, but a mismatched response is more likely to do damage than move the data in the direction you desire.

— beth triplett

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