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Are you a data dog?

© John Takai

We hear about data and metrics every day: Instructors measure class evaluations, checklists get followed, the runner tracks her personal best times, managers look at employee satisfaction rates, sales representatives track sales in the funnel, leads qualified, deals closed, and hours billed. We cannot escape it. But when is it too much?

Recently a client showed me how often he needed to report metrics to his boss. Clearly the measurement culture had gone wild in that organization. My concern was that they were spending so much time measuring and hardly any time analyzing what information was revealed. Rather than ask for all that data, this leader should be asking for the manager to collect the data, analyze it, and make recommendations that made sense after the analysis.

Why do bosses ask for so much data? What is the real issue?

It could be lack of trust, or not thinking the team has a sense of urgency. Maybe the boss worries that he made the goal too unattainable. Maybe the goal is do-able but he has not faced up to the real bottlenecks in the organization that will preclude meeting that new goal. Or, the boss truly is a data dog and is never satisfied until he or she has more and more data to chew on.

Are you a data dog?

What may be happening is that your too frequent requests for data and metrics may be getting in the way of people doing their jobs. Quit dogging them and try these new tricks:

1. Go to the dog park together. After you create the objective, involve your next level of management in the discussion to create key strategies. Let them figure out the tactics and measures they will use to track outcomes and success. Discuss and agree upon what key metrics must be hit, how often you need to see them (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly), and in what format (e.g., a dashboard, a spreadsheet, or a written report). Can any of this be automated? How can you get this data easily and when you want it? Discuss this together, have fun with it, and collaborate to find the best solutions.

2. Stick with your routine. What your people hate more than anything is the metrics-of-the-month approach. This makes them think you are thrashing and cannot make up your mind what is important. Key strategy changes to correct for problems are fine, but don’t bark out your demands for more, more, more! You could be blamed for moving the goal post, changing the game. This will make your team dog tired, and you will not be respected.

3. Give clear commands. Just as dogs respond best to one word commands, people need simple direction from you. Think through what data will help you get a read on the business. If it is cycle time today, then be consistent and talk, measure, and reward cycle time consistently.

4. Don’t muzzle your team. Listen to your team and create space for discussion. Let them weigh in. You need their input and opinions since they are closest to the problems. Show them you read the reports they created and then collaborate with them to solve the problems the data reveals. Commit to really looking at the numbers and analyze them.

5. Sniff out the answers. What do the numbers suggest? Dig deep to find the answers, and if you are not analytical, include others in the discussion in order to pull the best ideas out. Be realistic about solving the problems in doable timeframes.

6. Reward your top dogs. Acknowledge people when they hit the numbers/metrics you have set. They deserve recognition and appreciation.

Are you a data dog, or have you ever worked for one? Please add your comment below, or share with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or email.

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