Data is key to getting things done. But data is just an indicator, not an objective. It’s our use of data that truly drives results.
“Expert” may be a level of status for which we strive, but many “experts” have a gift for complicating things. Take a recent client conversation for example.
One team member positioned himself as an expert in data. He created a list of the top 37 data points he felt the company needed to measure. When asked for the weekly goal of each metric, the data expert shared two reasons weekly goals were very difficult to define:
- Much of the data was very difficult to access
- The weekly goal would likely change based on several factors
This client has struggled for months understanding what the health of their business is each week.
Genius versus Expert
“Genius” is breaking down the complex to the essential and presenting it in a simple way. Another client conversation went like this:
- None of us are data experts, but we need to measure the health of our business
- There are only five numbers we need to track on a weekly basis
- We must set a weekly goal that won’t change because we do or don’t meet that goal
The second group knows exactly what the health of their business is and adjusts behavior regularly to ensure their health.
What’s the distinction between these two examples? There may be many reasons, but two jump out for immediately:
- Group 2 used numbers that fit the context of their business
- Group 2 was willing to be accountable for the behavior that drives their data
How does this play out in the real world? Let’s break down those ideas using a few examples.
Write down the following number: 12,482,199,435. Now throw out the paper upon which you wrote that number. From memory, recite that number. How’d it go? Likely not well. It’s a totally valid number, but it has no context when presented as just a number.
Write down this number: 1-248-219-9435. Now throw out the paper upon which you wrote that number. From memory, recite that number. It likely went better than the previous number for one reason: context. (See 2014 article from Entrepreneur magazine)
It’s the exact same number, but it’s presented in a different context; that of a phone number (mine to be exact). Context is decisive and critical to simplifying everything in your business.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated blows to the head. Jeffrey Orridge, the commissioner of the Canadian Football League (CFL), refused to admit a connection between football and CTE. In March 2016, the National Football League (NFL) acknowledged that link after refusing to acknowledge it for years.
Here’s my question to Mr. Orridge – if the data clearly states a direct link between CTE and repeated blows to the head, and football is a sport in which blows to the head are frequent, how do you argue against the connection the NFL acknowledges? In other words, how do you argue the data.
This is not a condemnation of Mr. Orridge or football, but it is an example of someone unwilling to be accountable for what the data says. It’s easy to manipulate data. It’s more difficult to be accountable for what it tells us.
Data is one of the six key components of your business. When organized, and used appropriately, it can tell you exactly what the health of your business is on a weekly basis. But it’s critical that you use data within the context of growing your business and that you create a culture of accountability for what the data tells you.
Successful companies know what gets measured gets done. When we mess with what we measure, we mess with getting things done.
To learn more about where you may have opportunities to increase accountability and results, invest 5-7 minutes in our Organizational Checkup and discover where to start.