From data to wisdom

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The quote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has been attributed to both Drucker and Deming.

Fortunately (in my opinion) neither of these individuals actually said it.


In the case of Peter Drucker, he said many brilliant things of course, but for me as a firm believer in servant leadershipheart centered leadership and specific to healthcare relationship centered care, the one that stands out the most is …

“Your first role is the personal one. It is the relationship with people, the development of mutual confidence, the identification of people, the creation of a community. … It cannot be measured or easily defined. But it is not only a key function. It is one only you can perform.”*

* Refer to Measurement Myopia via the Drucker Institute (July 4, 2013 for more)

Yes, relationship.

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And in the case of William Edwards Deming, he too of course shared much wisdom, and the ones that stand out for me include …

“Drive out fear and build trust so that everyone can work more effectively.”

[Requires relationship]

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“The most important things cannot be measured”

“The most important things are unknown or unknowable”


And yes, as a former CFO and as someone who has built, led and leveraged an Informatics shop to support a large healthcare organization to achieve its mission, I believe in data and analytics … and also understand that over reliance on same (just as in healthcare over reliance on technology) is limited at best, minimizes personal relationships and trust and drives out the essential wisdoms beyond the data we too must understand and manage.

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Only with strong relationships, trust, and community, along with a healthy skepticism relative to data and an understanding of how to move from data to sagacity, will we open our hearts and minds to additional wisdom and best position our organizations to achieve their missions while living our values.

Drucker and Deming are quite brilliant. Let’s not bumper sticker their wisdom. Rather, let’s honor it by creating new and healthy relationships with one another, building mutual trust, creating community, driving out fear, and instilling a balanced approach to data. Those depending on us deserve it.

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