“Big Data” is big right now. It offers the promise of turning vast amounts of data into profits. Often, however, this promise is not fulfilled, because in order to reap the benefits of big data, you first have to know what the right data is. And that is a question that no AI can yet answer.

Not every business is ready for big data

Not every business is ready for big data. …


Joseph Heller’s dark satire Catch-22 proposes the term for problems that inherently prevent their own solutions. Creating good metrics can be seen as a Catch-22: Good metrics take time to create, but until you have good metrics there is no time to create them. How true is this and is there a way to break this cycle?

I had a client recently tell me about how much one part of the company needed better metrics, but that they would never be able to free up enough time to create them. …


I lived in Western Europe for a year after college when I was a Watson Fellow. Adapting to new cultures and mores was difficult, but I was surprised at how much more difficult it was returning to my own country afterwards.

As we near the milestone in the US of 50% with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is time to think about how to begin the transition back to the workplace. I think companies are going to find out that it is much more difficult than just “getting back to normal.” …


You’ve seen the situation — a manager makes the same mistakes over and over, an executive reads a book or article and decides to implement it at their organization. Why do they fail when they try to use their own or someone else’s experience? It’s because experience alone teaches nothing.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said:

“Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning… To copy an example of success without understanding it with the aid of theory, may lead to disaster.” (Deming, 2000, p. 103)

Your own experience teaches you nothing

Let’s start…


Even a small business is pretty complicated. I have heard some people say that business is so complicated that no one can really understand or control one. While the former might be true, you don’t need to understand everything about a business to manage it. And it can be understood by watching flocks of birds.

Let’s say you are made the CEO of a large company today. Congratulations! But how do you manage such a monstrosity?

Usually there are metrics that the person at the top of the organization is watching. …


Most businesses know the importance of using metrics to manage, but a lot of them struggle with creating metrics that actually fulfill their purpose. How do they go wrong, and how is hiring an external consultant to tell you the “right” metrics like getting an organ transplant that fails?

The point of metrics is to allow managers to manage (make day-to-day decisions to support their people in creating value for the customer) and to lead (take an organization somewhere it would not otherwise go). The big question for many companies is what exactly those metrics should be.

Some (perhaps most?)…


One thing I run into at many clients is that they don’t differentiate between metrics for a project and metrics used in management. How does confusing the two reduce your effectiveness and how can you fix it?

“Management,” in this case, is supporting the people who report to you in doing their daily jobs. Management metrics are, by their nature, ongoing metrics that you need in order to know how to help your people create the value that the customer is paying you for. By examining such critical measures, managers can react in time to prevent problems, while also preventing…


I was looking for a quick source to give a client an overview of what statistical process control (SPC) is. I found an article on Wikipedia, but, as is usual with SPC articles, it made a common, but in my mind crucial, omission.

Wikipedia is a great place to start looking into a topic (that is unless you keep clicking for hours like I do and inexplicably end up reading about the Sampshire slender bluetongue skink at 2 a.m.). But as a crowd-sourced reference it does merit some caution when using it.

The article (accessed 2020/07/24) about SPC is pretty…


Creating and translating metrics to every level of a business is essential to get and stay competitive. But don’t be overwhelmed and think that you have to get everything up and running all at once. As a wise man is misquoted to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing half-assed.”

So, what do I mean by that? Creating metrics that measure an organization’s success in achieving its objectives is hard in a particular way. Often companies are faced with what I call the “tyranny of the blank page” when they are trying to come up with metrics that make sense…


There are a number of barriers that prevent small companies from transitioning to big companies. But it is interesting to see a big company putting itself at risk by acting as a small one.

A number of years ago, one client of mine was considered the best in the industry because, by the President’s own description, “we don’t suck as much as our competition.”

This industry was plagued by poor design quality, poor manufacture quality, and poor customer service. By the way, it is also an industry that every one of us depends on daily for infrastructure.

The relevant part…

Steven Ouellette

Consultant, writer, educator, speaker, thinker.

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