Byron's Babbles

Driven Crazy By Data

Posted in Disciplined Leadership, Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Strategic Planning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 19, 2015

Yesterday I was involved in some pretty deep discussions on education. During one part of the discussion I made the comment that many times instead of being “driven by data” we are “driven crazy by data.” As usual, I got some weird looks, but it’s only because I was stating what many aren’t willing to discuss. I am calling this Part One because today I am going to use a personal example from our farm to make my point and will come back later in another post and prove an educational example. I believe those of you outside education in other industries and organizations will be able to use this example as well.

Today, my son and I needed to install a continuous 65′ run of matting for tie stalls in our dairy show barn. Pretty great Saturday Dad and Lad activity for a Saturday, I might add. Now here were the data points: Mat roll was 65′ long

Mat is 75″ wide

Mat weighs 2,000 pounds – 1 ton

Need to leave two inches on each end for the mat to expand

Needs to be 22″ from the wall at the top of the mat 

The Mat as Shipped

 Now, the company kept reiterating the mat was 2,000 pounds. Nice to know, but really I don’t care. The weight, however, was driving us crazy because we started the “what if” games. What if it’s not square? How will we move or change it? What if? What if? Well, we live on a farm and have the equipment to easily deal with one ton of material. We were truly letting one piece of data drive us crazy. I finally told my son. “We don’t care what it weighs.”  

Location of Mat Istallation

 We marked our 2″ starting point 22″ from the wall and squared the mat and began unrolling. The point: we only needed two data points to begin. We squared off the 2″ starting point and then checked the data point of 22″ from the wall (which meant we were keeping it square) as we unrolled. By checking every 4′ as we unrolled, we were able to make adjustments as we went. Bottom line – SUCCESS! The mat was perfectly square at the other end. 


 The point is we could have tracked barometric pressure, took temperature readings, timed the unrolling, measured fuel use of the tractor, video recorded the install, taken pictures (I did take three for this post), or who knows what else. All of those data could be valuable in other situations, but to us it would have been “noise.” In other words, it would have distracted us from the task at hand. In reality, if we would have done all that, we would have screwed up the install.
I am guessing that no matter what field you are in you can relate to this. Those in education could make a list of all the data points able to be tracked. But… we need to make sure we focus on data that really matters. Data that informs instruction and highly effective facilitation of learning is what matters most. If we are to be successfully driven by data, we must not let data that does not matter drive us crazy!
What data in your organization drives you crazy? What are the data points that will drive you to success?


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