How to KonMari Your Data

by | Jun 20, 2019 | General BI

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As time goes by, we find ourselves exhibiting three behaviors: collecting, letting go, and welcoming change. It’s easy to become a collector and tuck away objects without realizing the inevitable cluttered chaos that will slowly emerge into our lives.  We do it at home with knick-knacks that we stuff in our kitchen drawers, and we also do it at work with data that collects and never gets used. Whatever it is that you’re collecting, at some point you recognize that there is simply too much of it and it’s finally time to part ways.

In the Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” decluttering professional Marie Kondo talks about the KonMari method of cleansing. She encourages tidy hopefuls to keep “only those things that speak to the heart.” In other words, one should strive to become more mindful as to what they invest their time and dollars into and that we must truly re-think what we welcome into our living spaces. So how can you cleanse and reorganize your organization? Here’s how your team can use the six KonMari rules to tidy up your data.

KonMari Rules

Rule #1.

Commit yourself to tidying up

Is your organization hurting from a lack of organization? Is your team frustrated by the amount of errors in your data?  If you found yourself answering “yes” to both questions, you are probably in need of a change. Data cleansing is a process and you should not expect results to show overnight. Simple tasks to compact your data such as removing duplicates and treating blank cells can take up quite the amount of time, especially if you are dealing with big data. However, if you commit to the process, you will see powerful results from the ability to analyze data that has been standardized across your organization.

Rule #2.

Imagine your ideal lifestyle

Where is your organization now? Where do you want it to be? Every challenge is worth pursuing, but you must have a general idea of what you want the end result to look like. Do you want your team to make faster decisions? Do you want to see tangible ROI and outcomes from your efforts? How about the ability to create eye-catching data visualizations? If these are top priorities for your organization, you have to imagine them into existence and know what your end goal is before you embark on your cleansing journey.

Rule #3.

Finish discarding first  

Is your organization holding onto outdated data that is leading you to dead ends? Before you can welcome in the new, you must let go of the old. Begin with discarding this group first.

If you are like the many people who have a hard time with saying goodbye, Kondo speaks about becoming comfortable with letting go of your cherished belongings. She believes people should make their goodbyes more meaningful and “discard items that have outlived their purpose; thank them for their service – then let them go.” By doing so, you validate the object for what it did at the time it was needed, while avoiding the feeling of being unappreciative. It is during this time where we replace our feelings of guilt with a feeling of gratitude. In the case of our data, we thank it for serving our organization well at the time it was needed and providing us with insights. But now, if it is outdated, it’s time to say goodbye.

Rule #4.

Tidy by category, not location

If you’re working with big data, tidying up can be intimidating. It is for this reason why Kondo suggests to divide and conquer by starting to organize by groups rather than where they are standing. What does this mean for your data? If your organization is focusing first on financial data, begin cleansing all data that is relevant to this category and then dive into the rest later.

Rule #5.

Follow the right order

Now that you’ve set up your data to your liking, learn how to use it to your advantage. Depending on the data that your organization has and what you use it for, this rule will vary. Kondo recommends to organize in this order: clothes, books, paper, komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental. For a hospital with big data this can mean organizing: patient wait times, EHRs, drug costs, and medication usage. Once you’ve organized your data into larger categories, then you can dive into the details.

Rule #6.

Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Is your data working for you? Is it providing useful information to further your analysis? If so, this data is here to stay. If it isn’t helping your organization advance or realize your ideal lifestyle, it does not belong and it is time to, yet again, say goodbye.

Now that you’ve tidied up Marie Kondo-style, your organization is set up to quickly and efficiently achieve its goals.

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