Unnecessary imprecision

Unnecessary imprecision - spreadsheets and charts on a laptop screen

There are times when consultants veer towards unnecessary imprecision. Sometimes, or possibly even most of the time, when you read a consultant report you might recognize imprecise statements. So please interpret this post as my advice to fellow consultants and those leading change as a plea to improve.

Let’s use data. And let’s agree to be clear and open about it instead of trying to cover up by adding unnecessary imprecision.

Used openly and constructively, data with its inherent neutral property can be used to set emotions and options into a sober perspective. For example “Is 236 days a long time?” is a much better start for constructive discussions than “It usually takes way too long.”

And it’s far more useful to have a discussion about relevance than accuracy. So make sure the data is correct. Remember, the absence of any accurate data is also a data point.

One top tip is to make sure any data you share is recognizable to your audience. It’s the real world behind the numbers that’s important. Don’t hide the real world stories behind medians and averages. It’s the specific stories and recognizable examples that link the data to experience for the audience.


Start working with a subset of data that you can get to know well rather than a very large number of data-points you know little about. Be very specific about the date, the source, the selection and the possible inaccuracies in the precisions. Cherry pick and tell the story of an example close to the average and present as typical, instead of hiding behind imprecise vague metrics such as averages.