Most data contains a story, but extracting that story takes time. Is it worth it? Here's a realistic example that makes that point.
Consider two options:
1) No data preparation, team reviews raw data
2) Spend a few hours cleansing, summarizing and creating a visualize for team review
Option 1) Almost no data preparation, just distribute a multi-page hard copy data dump. A team of ten managers reviews the data. Since a good summary is not provided, there are conjectures about the data. The team spends 40 minutes debating what the data means - no good conclusion is drawn. Stoplight colors scattered about the pages are no help. Since the data hasn't been cleansed, its not trusted. Over 6.5 man-hours wasted in the review.
Option 2) Three hours are spent cleansing and summarizing the data, a visualization is created. In the team review, ten managers understand where expectations were met and where opportunities for improvement lie. In 20 minutes the review is complete, specific actions are assigned and the team moves on to the next topic. Less than 6.5 man-hours total have been expended.
Option 1, with no data preparation, took the same total time as Option 2 but resulted in little more than muda (the Japanese term for waste.) Option 2 was more productive and respectful of the team's time. It also resulted in action plans that should improve future results. Continuous improvement is alive and well because of data preparation and visualization, and it cost nothing extra.
Which option would you pursue?