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Fact-Based Quality

Posted by Diane Kulisek on September 14, 2009

WISDOM HIERARCHYI believe that the most important ‘product’ a quality assurance professional provides is actionable information.  Not all information, however, is created equal. 

There is a hierarchy associated with information. 

  • The lowest level of information is RAW DATA. 
  • When RAW DATA has been objectively verified, it can be classified as a FACT. 
  • A FACT that has been validated as appropriate for an intended use can finally be deemed true INFORMATION. 
  • The acceptance of INFORMATION transforms it into KNOWLEDGE. 
  • KNOWLEDGE, combined with courage, provides the power to take action and create change. 
  • Change begets lessons that can only be learned through experience and transforms KNOWLEDGE into WISDOM, the highest level of information (without becoming metaphysical).

You can find out more about the Hierachy of Wisdom on the QualityWarrior website (

Because information is so essential to the pursuit of quality, I particularly enjoyed an email containing an article from Michael McLaughlin, “The Guerrilla Consultant”, this morning titled: “Just The Facts”.  In Michael’s article, he explains how best to sell consulting services and advice to consulting clients using facts.  In particular, he discusses the potential pitfalls and considerations that must be applied to the soundness of fact-based sales pitches.

I found that, by substituting a top manager, colleague or prospective employer for the ‘client’, and by considering that what is being sold is a change to the quality management system or to a quality assurance process, as opposed to a change to any other aspect of the way a company does business, Michael’s recommendations could serve those of us attempting to make a case for continual improvement, return on quality investment or the economic case for the pursuit of quality, as well.

Here are some highlights of the article:

  • Your recommendations need to be accepted and acted upon to have value;
  • Acceptance of facts relies upon the skill with which those facts were gathered, analyzed, sorted for the most relevance and communicated; 
  • A compelling case for change can only be made when the facts supporting that change cannot be argued.
  • Change (even necessary, beneficial, positive change) tends to be resisted and the validity of facts used to make a case for change WILL be challenged;
  • If your facts are discredited, your recommendations based upon those facts will be dismissed and your credibility for subsequent recommendations will be much more difficult to reestablish;
  • If your facts are objective, timely, and valid, you will build credibility and trust with your top manager, colleague or prospective employer; 
  • Experience is not enough to earn the trust of decision-makers and your track record, alone, will not serve you as well as will presenting compelling facts;
  • Review your facts with those you wish to make a change and listen for feedback and buy-in before making any recommendation. 
  • There must be agreement about the validity of your facts before your recommendation is likely to be accepted;
  • When the validity of facts is certain, you will be able to focus upon solutions, without the distraction of defensive debates; and
  • Welcome debates about the merits of proposed solutions but avoid debates about the validity the  facts leading to your proposals “like the plague”.

In closing, Michael indicates that there are three critical considerations for building a sound fact base:

  1. Use multiple sources of information to validate your facts, especially external ones; 
  2. Cross-check every fact in your presentation and make sure there are at LEAST two credible sources of reference for each one that you can easily cite; and 
  3. Make sure your facts are free from bias or opinon and are objective, regardless of whether their sources are internal or external.  As Mark Twain was quoted as saying:  “There are liars, DAMNED liars, and statisticians.  Be sure your facts have not been manipulated to support only one desired outcome.  

My summary of Michael’s article is uniquely slanted toward serving those of us within the quality practitioner community and I hope I have done him justice in my having done so.  Nevertheless, his article is eloquently written for his target audience, the consulting community (to which some of us may also belong).  I encourage you to enjoy it in his own words on his website at: .  For those of you who consult, I highly recommend that you join The Guerrilla Consultant mail list and take advantage of Mr. McLaughlin’s monthly newsletter.  I assure you, he does not abuse his access to your email account and every issue contains his personal insights about successful consulting.


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