Leaders of large organizations are frequently inundated with data. However, the best leaders keep it simple and focus on two things:
- The mission.
- Their people.
The Only Useful DataI’ve heard and seen many statements about managing by data. I hate almost all of them. Why? Because people have migrated to the wrong idea of what data can do. Data should never dictate what we do – it should only be another source that guides our view. Data is an informer to action, but it should not direct action in and of itself. One leadership problem with many managers in today’s world is they do not want to make a mistake and so instead of letting data inform them they use data to tell them what to do in an effort to eliminate risk and play it safe. I am critical of this because social-type of data has a high bias towards the informer/provider of the information, and often lacks enterprise visibility to broader issues. I remember being the Operations Officer in the recruiting field of the Marine Corps where we collected data every morning as a way to forecast the productivity of recruiters. If they didn’t report enough contracts, we would say – do more calls. What would we get then? Reports the next day basically told us more calls had been made, but rarely without a resulting increase in contracts. I learned early on that what happens at the grass-roots level is really different from what gets reported up through the chain in the form of data. If one uses those reports as a sole element to make decisions, he will find himself making bad decisions. So how do we get useful data? It’s an art. I’ve worked up this scorecard to show what data points are really important to me right now. This is only a model, once the leader determines what his scorecard or infograph should look like, then the nature of the data can be understood along with the biases those data bring. The use of this type of scorecard allows the leader to focus on only a few things that are important. Much of the data will be subjective in these scorecards. The intent is that the data are identified, instantiated, assessed, and interpreted by the leader and the leadership team.
Focus On What’s ImportantList the top 5 projects. I like 5 because that forces priorities to be clear and eliminates dilution. Let’s face it – how much do we really care about project number 23? What do you want to know about the top 5? I think you want to know:
- Health (red or green – don’t allow yellow. It’s either going well or it’s not. Yellow only gives us a passive position – if it’s green, great. If it’s red then leadership needs to get involved.
- ETNI (Estimated time to next impact). I use to strive for delivery date. Now I no longer believe that’s valid because most large projects make several impacts long before they are complete. We want to know about that impact and be able to discuss it, measure it, market it, etc.