In the DMAIC methodology, a data collection plan is created during the Measure phase. It is a useful tool to focus your data collection efforts on.
Why Do You Need a Data Collection Plan?
Simply getting “all of the data” and looking at it is not likely to yield great results; you can easily get overwhelmed. Or you could interpret the data in an incredibly unhelpful way. Here’s a brilliant 5 min TED talk that illustrates great data analysis flawed by not setting great context:
How many people work projects with unlimited resources, with no deadlines, and an unlimited budget? Not very many, right? Getting data takes a lot of time and may be expensive. Seems the rest of us need a better way.
Bounds of Reality
It may not be possible to get all of the data that we want.
This is Six Sigma! We want to be efficient! By creating a data collection plan you can focus your efforts on answering specific questions that have business value. This directed approach helps you avoid locating & measuring data just for the sake of doing so.
“Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom.” —Charlie Munger
How to Create a Data Collection Plan
Step 1: Identify the Questions we want to answer.Our data must be relevant to the project. What is your project’s hypothesis? What are we trying to answer? The entire reason to have a DMAIC project is to improve a process so these questions should be centered around what the reality of your process is. And that’s best discovered by defining the current state.
What happens if we just gather data instead of making a data collection plan?Collecting data ‘just to see what’s out there’ is a poor approach that leads to bloat and wasted effort. It may lead you to collecting the wrong data – or collecting the data a wrong manner. By starting with the questions you want to ask you can then determine what kind of data (and in what manner) would help you definitively answer those questions. This will lead you to higher-quality solutions.
Don’t Forget: A data collection plan begins and ends with people.
To better avoid errors, you should talk to people who disagree with you and you should talk to people who are not in the same emotional situation you are.” — Daniel Kahneman
“When a possibility is unfamiliar to us, we do not even think about it.” — Nate Silver