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The Data: Results and Measurable Indicators and Sources One of the central premises of evaluation (and indeed, everything that we do in performance improvement!) is that we use complete and relevant data to make interpretations and recommendations about how to improve performance. Unfortunately, one mistake that is often made is forcing connections between data that are already available and the evaluation questions. While there is absolutely nothing wrong (quite on the contrary) with using data that are already available if they are relevant and suitable for answering our questions, the fact is that in many cases, they are not really relevant nor appropriate. 1 The logical order of things is reversed. That is, people look at the data they have available, then ask questions they can answer with those data. What is overlooked are the important questions that do not naturally stem from the data--those that should be asked and answered, but we have no current data to do so. Chapter 3 Data Defined For purposes of evaluation, data can be any documented record of something--an event, a performance, a result--that took place during the period under study or took place at some other time, but is relevant to the evaluation. Data are what you want to collect in order to answer the evaluation questions you have agreed to answer. Data could include account retention rates, production rates, incident reports, content mastered and applied from training or other Human Resource Development (HRD) efforts, question- naire results, observation notes, opinion polls, profit and loss statis- tics, deaths, injuries, bankruptcies, successful lawsuits, awards, and the like. These all meet the definition of data (i.e., these all could take place in the flow of events under study or they are relevant to the study by some chain of logic or rationale). However, all data may not carry the same weight in reaching conclusion, and some data may be misleading due to bias of one kind or another. 2 Here are some more things to consider about data in order to improve the success for all of the functions of your organization and to find out what is adding value and what is not. As you review each of the