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Pollution-Free Mining

Data-300x199Yesterday, I ran a 259 page report.  This report lists every matter we worked on for the past several years, filtered for certain criteria. It also represents our first serious foray into data mining.

Wagonheim Law was founded in 2002.  We have 11 years of history.  It struck me the other day, that we rarely make use of it.  Sure, we use the past year for financial comparisons like most businesses, but we simply do not put our data to anything close to optimal use.  I decided that that was about to change.

The report I printed, when properly sorted, will identify matters within the same discipline which required radically different amounts of time and effort.  When we dig deeper, we’ll be able to discover why.  Why did the matters at the top end of the range wind up absorbing so much more time than those at the bottom?  More importantly, what are the key predictive indicators which we could use at the outset of new matters to properly size them up and manage our clients’ expectations as to results, turnaround time, and total cost?

In my work with small businesses across most every industry, I find skilled and experienced business people who use their accumulated intellectual capital for the benefit of their customers.  What I rarely encounter, however, is a business that has made a point of investigating and documenting its hard-won knowledge for others within the organization to use and employ.

In other words, there is no knowledge bank other than that which lies above the shoulders of the principals.  It is the rare business that has made a discipline out of knowledge sharing.  And I submit that this is much to the business’s detriment.

There is a reason projects went south.  There is a reason that estimates turned out to be significantly off the mark.  There is a reason that customers left dissatisfied, that punchlists on particular projects were longer, that deadlines were missed, or that warranty calls increased.  To be sure, those reasons represent dodged bullets, provided the company survived.  If, however, that’s all they represent, the company is missing an enormous opportunity.

Learning need not be restricted to classrooms and outside workshops.  Often the best, most complete lessons – those guaranteed to be custom-tailored to your organization – lay waiting to be discovered inside your own data.

Now’s the time put on your hardhat and start digging.