When it’s time to move forward, it’s better to act based on facts, not guesswork. In my experience, knowing the facts usually leads to better outcomes. When we have data on a situation, we are more likely to know what to do next. That’s not to say we won’t miss the mark at times—but actions based on facts are always better than actions based on assumptions.
It’s always helpful for organizations to have good studies and research on a variety of key metrics: employee engagement, customer experience (or in healthcare, patient experience), workforce well-being, stress, trauma levels, etc. The same is true in community revitalization. That’s why I recommend a quality of life survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy for communities that want to be the best place for people to live.
Recently the American Nurses Association’s Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, and I presented at the large American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet and Pathway to Excellence Conference. Our presentation was based on two studies looking at healthcare delivery models. As the findings were presented, attendees burst into applause. It was not that things were great. It was that there were facts to base decisions on. It is best to take time to diagnose any situation prior to deciding the best action to take (or not to take). Getting the diagnosis right is critical.
Think about what happens when we receive medical care. We may go into an appointment with our assessment of the situation. Based on what we say, the medical professional may be able to make a solid guess on the condition and best treatment. Still, further testing is done. At a recent appointment I had with my primary care physician, we spent time reviewing PET scan results, as well as blood and urine results. It makes sense to not jump to conclusions. The data is what creates the plan forward.
Fact-based diagnosis was the topic of a recent conversation with community leaders from Thibodaux, Louisiana. They had read my book Building a Vibrant Community. I invited André Breaux from Lafayette, Louisiana, to join us. The Lafayette Parish is doing some amazing things in creating a great place to live. When asked how to start, André brought up the fact that his city had started its journey by completing the vibrant community assessment and a quality of life survey.
I received a call from Kevin Robinson, a journalist with the Pensacola News Journal. The topic was the completion of the 15th Annual Escambia County, Florida, Quality of Life Survey. He asked me why I have paid for this survey to be done every year. My answer was that I get tired of people making general statements not based on facts. At times, such statements have led to action being started or stopped when this probably did not need to happen. Of course, people have every right to say how they feel. Difficulties occur when their perception is presented as if it represents more people than themselves. When someone makes a statement like, “Everyone is happy,” or, “No one is happy,” or, “Morale has really improved,” this is often a red flag. Where is the evidence?
Here are a few tips and insights:
- When people make general statements or share their perceptions, ask for the data.Yes, people’s individual perceptions can be very helpful; however, perceptions are not always reality. People sometimes misrepresent how much feedback they actually have. I find that without data, there can be guesswork. When someone makes a general statement, ask for clarity. An elected official told me they had received “a lot” of emails on a certain subject. I asked how many “a lot” is. It ended up being three.
- Don’t fight the data or be upset with the messenger. The study I presented with Katie Boston-Leary showed that having charge nurses in staffing is a dissatisfier for nurses. Everyone will not welcome this news. Yes, it will cost more dollars to not have the charge nurses carry a patient load. It is worth it, because they are then available to support the staff and patients. View the full results of the Models of Care Insight Study.
In communities, quality of life studies may show both facts that people like and facts they do not like. This can lead to rationalizations. For example, data may show that, overall, citizens feel public safety is an issue. Public officials may have facts that say the crime rate is down. Both are correct. It is up to the public officials to implement actions to help citizens understand that the crime rate is down. Another rationalization is that the perception is due to something taking place nationally. The quality of life data and vibrant community assessment can show city-to-city comparisons.
- Getting the diagnoses right is a great investment.When a leader says they are not measuring key employee experience outcomes or conducting a quality of life survey due to expense, it is a red flag. I see organizations with budgets in the millions and hundreds of millions use expense as a reason not to measure employee engagement and other satisfaction metrics. My experience is that money is found for items boards and executives deem important. I think people are important. They are always worth investing in.
Measurement is our friend. It can stop us from pouring our time, energy, and money into “B” issues rather than “A” issues. It can prevent bad outcomes. It can lead to interventions taking place sooner. Good results can be celebrated. Valuable lessons can be learned so mistakes are not repeated in the future.
The best leaders, organizations, and communities measure what matters and take actions based on the results. It is not a perfect world, and we won’t always get it right—but knowing the facts means we can move forward with more confidence that we are headed in the right direction.