Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Data & PDCA

By Pascal Dennis

LPI Back to Basics Series, Part 2

"Big Data" is all over the Net, and rightly so.

Burgeoning computer horsepower means we're able to crunch numbers like never before.

Manufacturing, Marketing, Human Resources etc. will be able illuminate opaque areas.

Billions of data points -- molecular, customer and team member behaviour, for example -- can be analyzed, patterns identified and conclusions drawn.

Is that it, then? Can we fold up the management tent and let the computer figure things out for us? Can we outsource thinking?


Big Data, wedded to PDCA, is a blessing. Divorced from PDCA, it may become a curse.

Big Data can help us make correlations -- "When we do this, that happens." -- which inform our PDCA cycle.

But it's up to us to

  • Develop hypotheses,
  • Design & run experiments,
  • Reflect on the analyses, and
  • Adjust our hypotheses

It up to us to recognize the data that's missing, unknown or unknowable.

Deming, the consummate data guy, taught us that some things can't be measured.

How do you measure esprit de corps, indomitable courage, a sense of optimism, or simple decency?

Yet great battles and fortunes, achievement and honor, often turn on such unmeasurables.

As ever, technology, in this case, Big Data, comes to fruition only through the application of human finesse and intelligence.

So let's celebrate the Big Data's potential. Let's figure out how to use it to illuminate undiscovered countries.

But let's not outsource our responsibility to learn & grow.



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