April  2006     Edition 12
The Numbers Talk

Numbers talk

. Well if they did, they would often say “Read my Lips”. Numbers collectively create a picture of what is going on, but sometimes you have to look for it. How often do you analyze the data and “see” the information that is conclusive and actionable? If nothing immediately jumps out at you, do you spend time in the numbers, or are you too quick to ask for “another report”?
Try this (optional). What do these number sequences “tell” you?
(a) 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 12, 12, 13,13, 14
(b) $130, $125, $132, $128, $135, $133, $129, $138, $139, $140, $142, $141 ...
(c) 900, 850, 810, 770, 750, 744, 735, 730
(d) 30, 34, 37, 41, 45, 50, 55, 60, 64, 70, 74, 79, 82, 86, 90
(a) The sequence is generally linear and increasing, but there is a sudden jump from 9 to 12, much greater than other jumps. What would you ask next?
(b) Again mostly increasing linearly, but the last few measurements show a flattening trend. What would you ask next?
(c) Downward trend, but getting less downward. Could you predict at what point the numbers might start to increase? What would you ask next?
(d) Very subtle. There is what is called an inflection point mid way, which means the rate of increase has changed from positive to negative. If the trend continues the numbers will eventually decrease. What would you ask next?

“I’m Good with Numbers”

is a phrase used by people who seem to be, well, “good with numbers”. Generally it’s not because they can add in their head, but they can “see” a pattern within a set of numbers that others cannot easily do. They are really good at spotting the underlining relationship between the numbers.

Metrics and “Good Number People”.

When it comes time to review metrics or reports, are you a “good numbers person”? If not, ask someone who is to take a look at the numbers. They will be able to spot an interesting trend or anomaly that should be reviewed more closely. These people can “see” the pattern, almost as if the numbers are jumping off the page and screaming, “Read My Lips”.

The Numbers Monologue

. The data talks … it first raises the flag, i.e. “Hey … look over here!” The data will also say, “Hey, remember when you did this … well here is the result of that.” The data will often cry out, “Hey, if you don’t do something soon, look over here at what is going to happen.” You get the picture.
The Takeaway
: Most companies take great steps to measure things, such as, performance, variances, and trends. Companies spend a lot of money and people time to capture data. How much quality time is spent looking at and really analyzing the data? Do you ask “So What?” when you get a report? Numbers talk, and while they may not necessarily tell you the answer, they almost always show you the problem. Listen to them.

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