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Analysis and Design
How to Keep the Data Organized
One important characteristic of professional performance is the ability to
work effectively on many assignments simultaneously. Professionals have to be
able to leave a project frequently and pick it up again without losing ground.
The keys to doing this well are:
1. Knowing the tools of the profession and using them in a disciplined manner.
2. Working quickly.
3. Capturing data the same day that it is gathered
Using the Tools of the Profession with Discipline
In this respect, there is more professionalism in a well conceived set of file
names and directories than there is in a wall full of certificates belonging to
a disorganized person. For that matter, a three-ring binder may do more good than
A professional simply keeps track of the information that he or she gathers.
Perhaps the worst enemy of data organization is the tendency on the part of intelligent
people, who are for the moment intensely involved in some activity, to assume
that the clear picture of it that they have today will be available to them tomorrow
or a week later or months later. One way of avoiding this is to label and assemble
data as if it will be worked on by someone who has never seen it before. Believe
it or not, that person may turn out to be yourself.
A word about absentmindedness may be appropriate. When people are goal-oriented
and extremely busy they frequently find themselves looking for something they
had just moments before. The reason is that when they put it down their mind was
on something else and they did not make a record of where they put it. To find
it again they must think back to the last time they used it and then look around
where they were at that time. Two things we can do to avoid this are:
1. Develop the discipline of closure so that activities are wrapped up.
2. Select certain places to put tools and materials and do so consistently.
An analyst should take notes quickly. Speed in recording is important in order
to keep up with the flow of information as the employee describes the work. It
also shortens the interview, making the interruption less burdensome to the employee,
and it reduces the probability that something will come up that forces the interview
to be terminated prematurely. At the close of the interview it is a good idea
to review the notes with the employee, holding them in clear view for the employee
to see and then, of course, thank the employee for his or her help.
Skill in rapid note-taking can be developed over time. This does not mean that
you rush the interview. Quite the contrary. Address the person from whom you are
gathering information calmly and patiently. But, when you are actually recording
data you do it quickly and keep your attention on the person. For process analysis
data gathering, you don't have to write tedious sentences. The charting technique
provides you with a specialized shorthand (using the symbols and conventions of
process charting in rough form). See the rough notes following.
Same Day Capture of Data
The analyst then returns to his or her office with sketchy notes, hastily written.
These notes serve as reminders of what has been seen and heard. Their value as
reminders deteriorates rapidly. While the interview is fresh in mind these notes
can bring forth vivid recall. As time passes they lose this power. The greatest
memory loss usually occurs in the first 24 hours.
A simple rule for maximizing the value of these notes is to see that they are
carefully recorded in a form that is clear and legible, the same day as the interview.
The sooner after the interview this is done, the better. If this is postponed,
the quality of the results suffers. What was clear, at the time of the interview
becomes vague or completely forgotten. Details are overlooked or mixed up. Where
the notes are not clear the analyst resorts to guessing about things that were
obvious a few days earlier. Or, to avoid the risk of guessing, the analyst goes
back to the employee for clarification. This causes further inconvenience to the
employee and creates an unprofessional impression. You can help yourself, in this
regard, by scheduling to keep the latter part of the work day free for polishing
up notes on days when you are collecting data.
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