So you’ve gathered and interpreted your data in a timely fashion, and presented your data to key stakeholders – now what? The most important things to keep in mind as you execute the next step are active engagement with the information and making sure the insights go somewhere, rather than into another report that sits on a shelf. One of the most effective ways to ensure that the information is useful – and is being used – is by applying the learning together. Data-informed learning should take place as strategies are being implemented, allowing for shifts in a strategy as necessary.
Purposeful reflection on the data – including other contextual information, such as past experience and the desired outcomes – can help refine strategies by establishing what has worked and what can be improved. Exploring learning as a group, reflecting on the learning by collectively interpreting the data, and applying the learning can help surface insights and identify changes to a strategy in order to achieve meaningful outcomes.
Some things to keep in mind during this process include:
- Your role in this process is not to be the interpreter; rather, it is to present and help participants interpret the findings themselves, supporting a dialogue and documenting decisions.
- Contextual variables and intuitive learning can be as important as formal data, but…
- Intuitive learning should be supported by evidence if it will be driving important decisions.
One tool that can be useful in this process is emergent learning, a facilitated process which includes before action reviews (using past experience to inform future strategies), after action reviews (reflections on what happened in relation to desired outcomes), and emergent learning tables, which are structured conversations designed to answer questions about how to achieve a key goal.
Fourth Quadrant Partners’ Emergent Learning resources introduces the concepts and links to resources for more information.
In order to use the systematically collected data to rapidly improve strategies, you need to inform a specific decision-making opportunity and the right timing during the decision-making process to integrate the information. The use of data can be complex in large groups or even in smaller groups with disparate views on how to move forward. Establishing a process for how to integrate the data into the dialogue upfront can be helpful as is establishing a decision-making protocol. If the group is high-conflict, you may want to consider whether an external facilitator or mediator may be helpful.
Our Tools for Complex Decision-Making toolkit includes tools and tips on how to incorporate data into a decision-making process, as well as protocols and general advice for managing difficult decision-making processes.