“Data for data?” Asked the Japanese guy who had visited our mills from a big trading corporation in Japan.
He, along with his team had been auditing our group of mills to select and confirm the potential supplier for them. The incident happened some 25 years ago. As they could understand very little English, they had hired a translator who could speak local language and nihon-go (Japanese language).
I had been enthusiastically explaining to them about the enormous amount of data that we were getting through various testing instruments in the QAD, after a small tour inside the departments.
After listening to me patiently, the head of the Japanese team, with a straight face, asked me:
“Data for data?”
Though his English was poor, the three words with the perfect intonation conveyed a lot of meaning to me. ‘Are you collecting the data for the sake of it; or taking any action on them?’
I gave him a perplexed look for a moment. I wanted to reply, but my voice seemed stammering. “Yes sir! I mean… no sir! We don’t collect data for the sake of it. We do take actions on them!”
The translator attempted to translate my answer, but the Japanese head, waved at him to stop and signalled him that he had understood.
Fortunately, the head didn’t check whether I knew the meaning of all the data on the test report. To be honest, I didn’t know some of them.
Anyhow, we successfully partnered with that Japanese corporation and started supplying our products to them.
As the days and years rolled by, I started reflecting on that incident when I felt the stress of enormous data which kept pouring my way. The never-ending stream of e-mails, the endless reports from finance, marketing, cross-functional teams through ERP, digital data from latest machineries, and external sources, overloaded me.
The situation worsened when the digital social media such as Whatsapp, etc., started flourishing. Each department in my mill started their own Whatsapp group, like QAD, Production, Maintenance, Sales, etc., and made me as one of the group members.
Though, initially I was happy that I was getting all the data then and there and was enjoying replying promptly, little did I realise that it had slowly started engulfing my precious time. I could remember waking up and replying to messages in the middle of the night.
Slowly our people started to report only complaints and faults they noticed inside the department. There was a ratrace about who was making more reports (complaints?) to the management.
The torrent of information that flew seemed like a bad cholesterol which slowly builds up in our body, making us obese, clogging the arteries and finally slowing down all our actions. To save time, I started skimming over most of the data. Many times, I took bad decisions by skipping some of the important information. The frequency of my visits inside the mill also decreased.
Literally, I was suffering with that INFO-OBESITY!
Like for body obesity – eating less and exercising more, I found the cure from one of my mentors, that the only way was to filter and manage the data. When I started telling my people to post solutions along with the problems, one third of the data got reduced.
Then I identified what data was existing in the company and to whom to assign the access-rights to it. Then, the information started to flow to the right people, at the right point in the process and at the right time.
Then, I slowly analysed each data from the business objective point of view and found the real data which addressed the key business problems. This helped me to reduce the redundant data.
As there are many ways to reduce body obesity, we do have many diligent ways to manage info-obesity.