Both data and facts are important, but what is the difference and how does one navigate them?
Generally, facts can be observed. Data may tell you that a team is productive and successful, but facts may show that the team works unhealthy hours and causes problems for other teams. There’s never enough data to be 100% certain of anything, so one needs to continuously observe and try to learn facts.
While observation helps separate facts and data, it too can be flawed. I once worked with an organization that blamed prices for declining customer retention. The team was promising better service to make up for being expensive. If a customer called or came in with a problem, people went offline immediately to help. Customers we observed seemed thrilled with the immediate attention. Then we looked at phone system data and found abandoned calls; other customers were calling and not getting through because much of the team was offline. Data revealed an obvious issue that was not visible in daily work.
There’s no recipe for balancing the use of facts and data but a good rule is to always think critically about both.
Do you place more weight on facts or data? Where or when should you question this information?