I spend much of my life looking at, thinking about, and taking decisions with numbers, metrics, and graphs. In the best moments, I hear and understand a truthful story. In the difficult ones, I struggle to see anything of value. Numbers are rarely perfect, so the challenge is always there. When one reads the metrics and numbers produced, there is no story that holds together. One can guess, but it is like looking for a lost penny without light. Even if you find it, you cannot tell that you have what you are looking for.
It can feel like the individuals behind the numbers do not care. While I am confident that the individuals care more than my feelings suggest, it is a conundrum that lives on outside my control.
As I think of the best, I find myself examining my role in the process. Several truths haunt and provide hope concurrently. They haunt because I could do something that I often am not. They give hope because today is a day of putting aspiration into action.
High quality data always tells a story. The best data tells one that is easy to understand. It is neutral in the sense that it is never a hammer or tool of destruction. The story itself may cut, hurt, and be difficult, yet it always remains what it is – a story.
Data elements are facts that can be used for good or evil. In and of themselves there are just what they are. How I understand them in context is critical. Are they being used to clarity and communicate? Alternatively, are they merely points used to make an argument?
When people are trying to make a positive difference, the story sings. It is as if they have brought the best of the best! The cause each has embraced is noble. It feels as if they have embraced a Psalm of joy; “He’s Lord over earth, so sing your best songs to God.” (Psalm 47.7) It is never about the destination, it is always about the music along the way.