“Good” isn’t enough, bring me the data!

17 Apr
by Bridget DiCello

“How is … going?”  You fill in the blank.  What have you asked your team about?  Projects?  Sales?   Customer satisfaction?   Daily tasks?

And have you heard in response, “Good!” or “Fine.” and wondered just what those phrases really meant?  Sometimes they mean to communicate:

  1. “Things are not all that great right now, but we’ve got a solid plan to address them.”
  2. “I’m really not sure how things are going, but nothing appears to be in fire, so I think we’re okay.”
  3. “If I say, ‘Good!’ or ‘Fine.’ you will not worry as much and give me some room to go figure out how things are really going.

This is not only the case if you have a few slackers on your team who avoid accountability.  In many very successful businesses, even good performers may not have a handle on specifically how things are going.  There is this common aversion to data collection and analysis in many organizations because it requires time and effort that could be spent doing things instead.

Brad Robertson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) St. Francis Hospital has a sign hanging in his office which reads, “In God We Trust, all others bring Data.”

What data might your team need to bring you?

  • Customer service metrics
  • Sales and Pipeline data and pipeline building activities
  • Profitability, and the related pricing, expenses, execution, rework, delivery
  • Company overall health – current assets, long term liabilities
  • Where we are, where we’ve been, trends, projections
  • Industry specific measurements

How often do you need to see this data?

Part of the objective of gathering data is that the process can become part of the daily routine, so metrics are gathered and reviewed routinely (at least monthly, more often for some metrics), not only by a leader, but by team members as well.  If a doctor had to assess you without any tests, lab results or equipment such as a blood pressure cuff or stethoscope, and only saw you once in a while, an intuitive doctor might be able to make some guesses, but you would not have the same opportunities for good health.  It’s the same for the business or department you lead.

Identify the right data to gather, the easiest way to obtain it, a set time to review it, a consistent way to use it for making solid decisions, and stay consistent in that process.

On a final note, for those of you reading this who think that data is fabulous and you could spend all day just gathering and analyzing because there is so much good information to be gleaned, be careful to balance the value of gathering and reviewing accurate data with the objective of using it to improve business processes and ensure greater success.

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