Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Even the Longest Journey Must Begin Where You Stand"

The quote is from Lau Tzu, the Chinese philosopher-turned-management-guru -- and I like it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s so true: you have to honestly appraise your current situation in order to reach any goal. Secondly, no matter how bold your strategy, you can’t obfuscate the situation, thinking that strategy only needs to be stated to be accomplished. As any successful person will tell you, there’s a lot of sweat equity that has to be paid between where you stand and the journey you take.

As you probably know by now, I’m fascinated by data and passionate about analytics and how both will transform our businesses. However, it’s a journey not a sprint and begins with assessing what we call "the path to desired business results":

There are five key drivers of performance in any organization and while analytics might be the means to an end, these enablers are the catalysts. So, standing where you are now, it’s worthwhile asking the following questions:

Strategy: How will analytics help us compete successfully? Will we be able to differentiate ourselves in our markets using analytics?

Leadership: Are we as leaders prepared to commit the organization to an analytics based way of making decisions? Can we give the employees who will have to make this work the buy-in they need to be successful? Can we put aside our impatience and allow them to Think Big but Start Small?

Culture: Do we have data fiefdoms that refuse to share data or collaborate on projects? Do we celebrate the efforts of the early adopters, even if success isn’t guaranteed every time, in the spirit of discovery and experimentation? Analytics is all about experiments, testing, and doing it over and over. Have we made more of our decisions by the seat of the pants and been proud of it?

Employees: Do we want analytics to cascade down into the organization and, if so, are we prepared to properly train those whose jobs it will be to manage the technology that supports their business knowledge? Are we hiring employees for competencies that underpin the need for a broadly based analytics movement?

Customers: This is one area of most businesses that has received the most analytics attention so the questions here are: is our customer data in one place, is it at the lowest level of analysis possible and have we aggregated it across all of our channels?

The analytics journey is probably never ending as technology and competencies improve exponentially to deliver more insight with less complexity. But, knowing where you stand before you take the first step – or flying leap – will ensure that this critical initiative doesn’t crash and burn at the first turn in the road.

What is your analytics journey like? Are you looking first at where you stand or sprinting off for the unknown?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Transform Your Metrics From "So What?" Into "Who Knew?"

There are a lot of 3D movies out; have you noticed? I don’t seek them out but I appreciate the fact that people may enjoy a film more when it is multi- dimensional and they can feel immersed in the action.

I think we get too fond of our metrics; we have them because we’ve always had them. We track metrics and manage them and present their variances against performance goals. The problem? They often are one-dimensional and not very meaningful outside of our own function. And, if they aren’t tied to a real business outcome, it’s hard to make a case for the programs we want to implement. We may not monetize metrics, which is the language of our bosses; so there’s a sense of “so what?” when we present.

So, how do you make a common metric like turnover (employee or customer) more 3 dimensional and get people immersed in your action?

Embed Metrics With Data: Not just the obvious data of people in/people out. Drill down; explore data. There’s an “aha” in there I promise and since you have the business context, there is no one better positioned to see it and explain it.

Use Data Sets from Other Departments: Make your metric multi-dimensional by bringing in data from HR, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Process, Call Center: whatever data set you have, add to it in a smart way by collaborating with other departments who also have valuable data that isn’t yet insight. We have to dismantle data fiefdoms and share. Where does turnover impact the business? How does it impact the business?

Try Simple Statistical Tests: This is the point at which people click off because they think it’s not in their skill set. If you have Excel on your PC, you have a statistical toolkit. Invest in a great little e-book that provides a huge amount of good information and it is well presented (Using Excel to Solve Business Problems by Curtis Seare). Try out various assumptions to see which are more powerful. Who is leaving? What is driving turnover? How does it affect customers? How does it impact employees? Where does it affect business goals? Experiment with results and keep testing.

Provide a Business Context: Sometimes people get hung up with statistics, even simple ones and forget that the most important point is taking what statistics can tell you and mapping that to what you know about the business.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know: aka Monetize the Results. When you know what turnover really costs the company and what it costs to improve the situation, you will have the attention of people who haven’t seen your metrics/data/ideas presented in a way that they understand.

Then, your metrics are multi-dimensional and provide real intelligence for the organization.

How are you helping your decision-makers get immersed in your metrics? Are they in 3D?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Kind of a Boss Are You Anyway?

The title of today’s post came from a reader who sent me an email after my blog about employee commitment. There’s a lot of pent up frustration out there about us mangers, People, and it’s bound, as my reader suggested, to chase away your best and brightest.

As someone who likes to research a topic in order to develop it properly, I’ve done my due diligence and here is how some of the issues stack up. Do you recognize even one that applies to you? If so, there are things you can change IF you have the heart and mind to do it.

Don’t Believe All the Stuff You Read in Reviews: only Paris Hilton does that. Put your own boss’s comments in context. Is she bad about having productive performance conversations and the annual review (if you even get one) is rushed and bland? Maybe you should ask your team how you’re doing and really listen for feedback.

Are Your Bad Habits Rubbing Off on Your Staff? Are you continuously late to team meetings or do you regularly ask employees to work extra hours because you couldn’t get your act together? As Stephen Covey said, being in the thick of thin things means that the important things never get done – until they reach a crisis. Putting out fires is not the measure of a good manager or leader no matter how good that adrenaline rush feels.

Do You Show Genuine Respect for Other People? I confess: I absolutely hate people responding to email and texting during meals and meetings or continuing to work while I sit there for a scheduled meeting; and the only functioning brain in the room is mine because the other person erroneously believes in the myth of multitasking. It’s been proven that multitasking is less productive than attending to one thing at a time and following through on it. If you don’t respect my time or the purpose of the meeting, don’t call one -- or me.

You Went on the Leadership Courses; Now What? I’m not one of those people who believe that leaders are born not made although the potential needs to be there. Winston Churchill was a terrible peacetime leader but he understood what it took to lead in the darkest of times. I don’t think he went on a course to develop that skill set. The point is, leadership training can be generic and disconnected from either your job or your organization’s culture; making it very difficult to apply the content in everyday work. The best recipe is training that is a direct result of a good performance review (not filling up a predetermined number of annual training hours) coupled with mentoring and coaching. Being curious and unafraid to ask questions are also vital development tools.

As managers, too often we don’t take stock of our own performance and how it affects the people who have to make things work on the team. Are we lazy or in over our heads? Are we modeling the behaviors inflicted on us by our own bosses? When you find one day that your best people are leaving, you may need to own up to the fact that people rarely leave their jobs; they leave their bosses.

We’ve all had great bosses. Who were yours and what made them great?