Pernicious Simplistic Approach to Data

This attractive, simple approach to measurement is probably not helpful and likely harmful.

When I first saw this stoplight motive used by a hospital senior team to guide review and decision making I thought it was a cute approach to help them deal with a multitude of measures and rudimentary mathematical skills. I was in no position to challenge it at the time. It needs challenging - and not just the simplistic metaphor. It is time for leadership at all levels to go back to school. Does everyone need to know how and when to use the right statistical chart? No. But everyone needs to have a basic understanding of variation and and awareness of the pernicious effect of tampering. This article and associated editorial provide a good critique on why this approach should get the red light.

The problem with red, amber, green: the need to avoid distraction by random variation in organizational performance measures
BMJ Q and S Article (subscription)

Related Editorial (open)