As a business professional, you know that data is key to making informed decisions. And regarding quality improvement initiatives like Lean Six Sigma, objectivity is essential. But what is “objective evidence,” and why is it so important? In this article, we’ll discuss what it is and how it can help you achieve success with Lean Six Sigma.
Overview: What is objective evidence?
It is factual, unbiased data that can be observed and measured. As one of the key concepts of Lean Six Sigma, it measures results of attempted improvements to business processes and determines if those improvements have been made to any degree. This can be anything from customer complaints and surveys to data gathered from sensors or other sources. Immune to personal or emotional interpretation, the measurements are verifiable and repeatable when taken correctly.
Ultimately, the concept empowers organizations to improve their processes and efficiency by identifying which improvements are working, which aren’t, and which need more work, maintaining these differences results in the most effective elimination of waste and defects, which in turn enhances the customer experience.
5 benefits of objective evidence
When making important business decisions, CEOs and other business professionals often rely on this evidence (which can also come in the form of data analysis, surveys, and focus groups). However, some people argue that relying too much on objective data can have negative consequences for businesses.
Do the benefits of objective data outweigh its drawbacks? That’s a question that many business professionals are asking themselves these days. Some of the benefits are significant.
1. Ability to track progress and ensure that they are making positive changes
Elimination of waste, improved customer satisfaction due to fewer defects, and more accurate data due to objective measurements rather than opinions are significant changes that affect the bottom line.
2. Improved communication between teams
By having accurate and consistent data, everyone involved in the project will have a better understanding of what is happening and what needs to be done.
3. Building of credibility with stakeholders
When it can be shown that improvements have been made because of Lean Six Sigma work — and it is verified that those improvements are repeatable — support for future projects is more easily won. Consistent efficiency and quality have become the norm, and decisions, once difficult and laborious, happen easily and quickly.
4. More accurate and dependable forecasting
Facts are proven through measurement, analysis, and observation. The work of predicting future trends, known as predictive analysis, is based on objective data and can provide a high degree of probability as a result. To a degree, it enables companies to “see into the future.”
5. Irrefutable support for business cases
It is often not feasible, or even appropriate, to rely on subjective evidence in support of a business case (a statement of why a business should or should not implement a recommended change, describing the desired outcome of the change and the ways in which the change will help achieve a desired result). Using objective data in support of a business case creates a more credible argument.
There are drawbacks, but they can be ameliorated if caught and addressed early. Just being aware that there are potential drawbacks at all is a good reality check, because the reality is:
- It’s time consuming and expensive to gather accurate data.
- There’s a lot of room for interpretation, which can lead to disagreements among team members.
- Common sense and intuition, still very important and necessary, are eschewed in favor of heavy reliance on data, which can lead to inaccurate conclusions.
Why is objective evidence important to understand?
In the business world, objective data is king. It separates successful businesses from the crowd. In Lean Six Sigma, we talk about this concept a lot because it’s one of the key concepts that help businesses achieve success.
1. It is important to understand to correctly interpret data and make sound decisions
When data is measurable and objective, rather than subjective, it can be used to support or refute hypotheses, making it an important tool for decision-making.
2. Knowing when not to use it is just as important as knowing when to use it
It may not always be relevant to a given situation, and a thorough understanding ensures those situations are recognized.
3. The significance and scope of applicability are too great
This level of objectivity is needed everywhere, from product development and Lean management, all the way to outbound marketing and customer satisfaction strategies. A lack of understanding can create inadvertent mistakes like untested hypotheses and second-guessing oneself during the decision-making process.
An industry example of objective evidence
During the planning process at a large university, faculty members wanted to know whether their course enrollments would increase after implementing new syllabi every semester instead of every year. The academic board collected data on previous semesters and determined that there was an average decrease of 2.5% in student enrollment for every course when the syllabus changed from year to year, as opposed to semester to semester. This objective data helped faculty make a more informed decision about continuing with their new policy.
The data in this case was collected from past semesters which showed a trend. The data was objective because it could be measured and counted (e.g. number of students enrolled in courses), and it was verifiable by objective criteria (e.g., everyone agreed on what constituted a change in syllabus).
5 best practices for effective use of objective evidence
Best practices in business are the methods and strategies that have been shown to lead to success. There is no one right answer for what these are, as they may vary depending on the type of business and the industry it operates in. However, there are some general principles that are likely to be applicable in most cases.
One important factor in achieving success is using objective data.
1. Use the data to make decisions that are free of bias
Using objective data to base decisions on facts rather than opinions or guesses is difficult to do in practice, as it often requires looking at data that may not be favorable or comfortable. However, making decisions based on objective information and free of bias is more likely to lead to long-term success than relying on personal judgment or gut instinct.
2. Examine the data for patterns and trends
This data can be used to make informed decisions about how to move forward.
3. Incorporate into market research
This involves studying the wants and needs of potential customers to determine whether there is a demand for a product or service and, if so, what it should look like.
4. Continue use beyond early stages…
Objective data gathering should not be limited to the early stages of a business venture. It can also be valuable in guiding strategy and decision-making throughout the life of a company. For example, if sales are declining, it can help identify the factors that are causing this and determine the best way to address them.
5. …but don’t be exclusive
While it is an important tool for business owners, it is not the only thing that matters. Personal judgment and intuition should also be considered, as they can be valuable in identifying potential opportunities and risks. However, objective data should always be given greater weight, as it is more likely to lead to long-term success.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about objective evidence
1. What exactly is it?
It is information that is verifiable and can be confirmed by others. It is not based on opinions or beliefs, but rather on facts. It is an irrefutable barometer that measures efforts to improve all aspects of business.
2. Is the data always reliable?
Ideally, but it depends on the quality and accuracy of the data used, as well as the process by which it was obtained. If too much room is left for interpretation, it can lead to the wrong conclusions and, subsequently, the wrong decisions. It can also be faked or manipulated to support a biased perspective.
3. What are examples of how the data is obtained?
Examples include but are not limited to video footage, documents, photography, audio recordings, and affidavits/certificates from professionals.
Is the objective evidence concept best for your business?
The benefits and drawbacks of Lean Six Sigma’s approach to objective data are provided so you can decide if it is right for your business. If this isn’t the case, we recommend exploring other solutions, such as a marketing plan that utilizes cognitive neuroscience principles or an SEO strategy that employs digital advertising strategies like retargeting.