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Tool: Data collection

Typical use (type of issue/project)

As a reference guide before you engage in collecting data and as a reference while you collect the data.

Ease of use rating

Used by

Yourself and your team.

Tips for effective use

Review the handout not only before you commence collecting your data but also at every stage of the data collection process (from start to finish).

Signals of successful use

Concluding the data collection stage, benchmarking your steps against the questionnaire, and realising that you have met all the criteria. Using the data collected as evidence backing up your project.

Signals of unsuccessful use

Failing to collect sensible data or realising the data you collected is not appropriate for drawing conclusions.

Links to other tools

Preparation for the feedback meeting, and Metric benchmarking (Project analytics and diagnostics).


Data collection

  1. Decision to proceed with the enquiry/data collection. This is always a joint decision with the client.
  2. Selecting the dimensions or scope of the data collection. This may also include deciding if other people will collect data relevant to their discipline. It is also advisable at this stage to agree who will receive feedback and to what level of detail. As well as who will be involved in the feedback meeting. You need to take into account here any bias on your part or the client’s. It is no use collecting loads of technical data if you suspect the issue is a relationship one, but your client is reluctant to look at that aspect. Equally, make sure you are aware of your own biases and follow the guidelines in the Being independent topic.
  3. Decide who will contribute to the data. This is about who will be interviewed or whose opinion sort. Remember asking people questions usually sets up an expectation that they will get feedback. Agree this point now not after the data collection is complete. Selection the data collection method.
  4. The method should mirror the objectives of the project. So for example if you project is about finding ways to communicate more effectively it is important that the data collection is an example of effective communication. You also need to take into account the time, resources and motivation of your client. As well as the severity of the problem. There is a balance between over and under investing to be decided.
  5. Most data collection breaks down into three layers:
  • First layer

This is about the presenting problem. ‘What is the problem you are experiencing?’

  • Second layer

The perception about how others are contributing to the problem. ‘What are other people or groups doing to either cause or contribute to the problem at its current level?’

  • Third layer

This is about how the person sees his or her own role in the problem. This is a particularly important question for your main client It brings the problem into their realm of control and avoids them pushing it ‘out there’ to someone or some group. ‘what is your role in the problem? what is there in your approach or way of managing that may be contributing to the problem or getting in the way of resolution?’

  1. Collecting the data. Ensure that you have enough data to track the patterns. You will need to ensure that any key stakeholders feel heard.
  2. Funnelling the data. This is about reducing all the information to manageable proportions. Your objectives will guide this process as will the style of your client and the organisation culture.
  3. Summarising and analysing the data. Successful HR BPs emphasise the importance of matching the client in the way data is summarised and presented. So if your client is used to lots of quantitative analysis you will need to ensure you provide this as well as the qualitative analysis you feel is appropriate, Check you have said:
  • What the information means.
  • What is important.
  • Why is it important.

You may also be pressed to reconsider who sees the data and in what level of detail. This may involve ethical considerations if promises have already been made.

  1. Feedback. You will want to rehearse this meeting including anticipating any resistance you may meet. Ensure you match the clients style in the manner in which you feedback the data. In practice this step usually includes the next.
  2. Giving a recommendation.
  3. Making a decision. Ensure you have a clear mandate to act, or not. You may need to consider how you deal with a partial decision, in other words. when only part of the recommendation is to be acted on. This will include how you communicate back to the people who gave input and possibly the whole organisation.