A current trend in green building is an emphasis on performance data. The mantra “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” are the words we live by.

But the data collection process can be onerous and wrought with complications, making it tough to draw conclusions and interfering with change management. The focus falls on collecting more and more data, leaving little time for analysis and implementation.

Information Overload

Stacks of paper, many spreadsheets, and multiple proprietary tools overload and overwhelm staff charged with finding the relevant, actionable data. The process never seems to end and we spend more time clarifying that data is accurate than on acting on the data we need.

The time spent on email collecting more data becomes what you measure, not the data itself! Very little time is spent on asking people questions like “what needs to change for you to do your job better?”

Talk to Stakeholders

If you want to manage change then dump the data.

The most effective starting point is talking to those people that you want to change: your stakeholder group. The naysayers of change always point to a lack of data before they act.

They want definitive proof before they are convinced to behave differently. The reality is that 99% of the time no amount of data is enough for those who resist change, so stop trying so hard to satisfy them.

It’s simply their way of avoiding hard decisions. It takes time and the willingness to have difficult, but necessary, conversations to uncover what needs to change.

You Know What You Want

It’s really quite simple. You probably know what you want to change already. You don’t need data to convince you that it’s the right thing to do, though chances are you already have enough data to support your decision.

It may be a design behavior, such as implementing a natural ventilation approach, or an operational behavior, such as turning off the lights when someone leaves a room, but it’s behavior that needs to be addressed.

To do this well, you need to create a shared vision that everyone can get behind. If you start with what’s broken, or what needs to be fixed, you put people on the defensive and innovation stalls.

Take the time to have an open and honest dialogue with the intent of learning what each stakeholder truly wants or needs to win. That’s when solutions start to become apparent that result in true innovation.

Starting a Dialogue

I once worked with a museum curator who was dead set against a naturally ventilated museum space. He wouldn’t change his mind even though the data showed energy savings and thermal comfort could be achieved.

We had a conversation that revealed he was concerned the building would limit his options to display artifacts so they could tell a story. Working together, over a cup of coffee, we came up with solutions that met his vision for the museum space while achieving much needed energy savings.

The end result was not only a naturally ventilated museum, but also a peer who became a true believer in sustainability.

A mountain of data couldn’t convince him. Data is important, sure. But people discussing their problems and working toward a shared vision will always trump data.

Brad Pease AIA, LEED® AP BD is the leader of Paladino’s Signature Buildings Practice that guides owners to embed core organizational values around sustainability into their significant single building projects.

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One Comment

  1. Brad:
    While I might be considered a data hound…I am in 100% agreement with you premise “dump the data”. Nicely put. …people working through a shared vision can Alway trump data …


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