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Data, 'Dismissed, dicounted, disregarded' but in hindsight...

19-February-2013 0:00
in General
by Dr. Megan Joffe

So say Carter and Jarman (BMJ, Feb 2013 ) in their description of how alarming data was treated by executives all the way up the chain in the tragedy that is Mid Staffs. If quantitative data is dismissed, discounted and disregarded what chance does qualitative data have?  The Francis reports notes that the phrase “the benefit of hindsight” was used 378 times in the transcripts of the oral hearings – but hindsight is too late.  So firstly we need to pay attention to qualitative data, especially when it makes us feel uncomfortable, and explore it rather than find reasons to explain it and then ignore it. Then we need to explore why it makes us feel uncomfortable if it were true, these should be followed up.  Attending to feelings, intuitions, perceptions and instincts is more important than many executives driven by targets recognise. When people say “I have a feeling that …; l am uncomfortable with …; it doesn’t feel right; I feel in my bones that it isn’t right ….; my experience of working here is ….I perceive that X is happening” we should take heed and not ask “where’s the evidence to support your feeling?”. Any successful culture change – as required by Francis – will require recognition of the importance of feelings, values, perceptions; courage to take these seriously and the patience to work with people to change the events and situations  which cause a rise to these uncomfortable feelings and intuitions. 

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