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Measure For Measure: Start Your Data Story Where It Matters

Not everything that gets measured matters and not everything that matters get measured. In today’s data driven landscape it is imperative that business leaders be intentional with how they interact with organizational data. Drawing key insights from the overwhelming amount of data we have to select from is essential if we are to find a signal thorough all the noise. And if there is a story to tell, that story starts with measuring what matters.

A magnifying lens lays atop of a complex graph


Every effective communication starts with clear intent and purpose and a knowledge of the intended audience. Data communication is no different. Aligning your measurement efforts with your business objectives drawn from organizational goals will focus your data activities on the key insights that are the current priority. Not everything can be equally important at the same time. While all the data you receive may be useful information, only some of it is relative to your immediate goals.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

W. Edwards Deming

Whether it is to drive up retention, drive down costs, positively impact user experience, or reduce inefficiencies, there are just a handful of metrics that your organization is focused on at the present time. Often published and shared in the form of Balanced Scorecards (BSC), Key Performance Indicators (KPI), and Objectives and Key Results (OKR), these organizational objectives should shape where you focus your intention for data insights. In fact, in some organizations they focus on solely one measure for a period.

One Metric That Matters (OMTM) is a concept that was popularized by Ben Yoskovitz in his book Lean Analytics. The premise is that getting everyone to focus one metric at the same time throughout an organization can rally everyone to get behind one important achievement.

What actions are measured in numbers over time at your organization? Align your department goals with those of the organization. Formulate your business objectives to reflect a direct relationship to your organization’s key performance indicators.


I recently had the opportunity to speak to leaders in healthcare about this very topic through a webinar presented by The Beryl Institute, an organization committed to “elevating the human experience in healthcare”. The webinar, entitled “Impact of Volunteer Programs: What Are We Measuring and Who Are We Telling?” explored this clarity of focus in healthcare as leaders in that space attempt to answer the million dollar question of how do healthcare volunteer programs measure success.

Picture of webinar announcment

Once you know your focus, be clear on your purpose and your audience. Effective communication always starts with a clear idea of the intended audience of the message.

You have a clear business objective aligned to an organizational goal and you have metrics to collect relevant data. You should always know who is it you plan to share this information with and what is it you hope to move your audience to do, know, or act upon. Start your data story by always keeping the ‘who’ at the forefront so that you can build the narrative in a way that meets the interest and satisfies the needs of you audience.


A singular objective can be clearly focused so that the main elements in the story don’t get bogged down in extraneous characters and plot lines (and line graphs).

What gets measured matters. If you believe that volunteers at the bedside enhance patient experience, then you need to operationalize what that means. Measuring bedside visits is a start but is actually an input measure.

Example of KPI alignment shown in flow chart

It’s not the number of volunteers you have or the number of hours they’re coming on site or even the number of times a volunteer goes into a patient room or engages in a bedside visit.

As Eileen McConville, CEO of Vision Volunteering says, there’s a difference between input and output metrics in the volunteer world. Those volunteer hours and volunteer numbers are inputs into the system. The output is what happens between when they enter your organization and the change in the clientele, you serve.

The output can also be what happens between when a volunteer the start of that bedside visit and the end. Operationalize your goals into measurable data points.


Test your business question. Collect the data over a reasonable amount of time that will provide you reliable and consistent results. Consider a start and end time for your data collection. Remember, not everything is the same level of importance at the same time. Just because you start collecting the data points now does not mean you have to for perpetuity. Refer to your aligned goals to determine what is right for your story.

If your data literacy skills are a little rusty, novice, or non-existing, you are not alone. Data literacy means possessing the skills necessary to interact with data in such a way that you can understand, explore, use, make decisions with, and communicate with data.

In a 2022 study, published by Forrester, one of the key findings is that the growing need for data literacy skills is very palpable. By 2025 nearly 70% of employees are expected to use data heavily in their jobs. But only 47% of employees say they’ve been offered data training by the organization. The data culture in most organizations is not keeping pace with the production of data being presented to non-technical leaders. There is an assumption that organizational leaders receiving data will be able to understand, analyze, and use the data for better decision-making, or to create initiatives that further the organizational goals

Become very familiar with the Business Intelligence (BI) tools that you have access to in your organization. Excel is popular and powerful. Run your data through several in-house, for-your-eyes-only visualizations as a tool for exploratory analysis. Find the story.


Having measured intentionally and with purpose, you now have findings, insights, wins, and challenges that you have uncovered. What is the most important insight? What is the story to tell? Go to your aligned goals to find your answer.

With your purpose at hand and your audience identified, you now have data insights drawn from a mindfully constructed business question to shape an effective data story designed to compel your audience to action. An effective data story starts with knowing what to measure and why. By aligning your metrics to clear organizational goals you will measure what matters and it is much more likely that what matters will get measured.

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Roseanna Galindo, ECBA, CAVS

Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy and the human experience in healthcare. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right.

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