Death by a Thousand Cuts?

Death by a Thousand Cuts?

I’m all for data and data analysis.

Truth be told, I can be a bit of a geek when it comes to parsing numbers, breaking down trends, and interpreting what they mean for the future.

But there are limits – and over the course of my years in industry I’ve seen them reached and exceeded by more than a few otherwise competent managers.

No business leader will excel if he or she can’t optimize data in order to make more informed decisions – and more important, to affect strategy and execution.

So why do we see so many who have made analysis an end unto itself? 

For some, it’s because that’s the limit of their skill set – jumping the numbers is their proverbial “hammer” – which means every problem they encounter becomes the “nail.”

“Results aren’t where we want to be? Well, let’s run the figures again.”

“Trends seem to be lagging? Well, let’s do a 6 month retro-analysis.”

Or the most common one – “the weekly numbers are slow – let’s get on a conference call and talk about them.”

The following week, “let’s get on a conference call and …talk about them again.”

And so on…and so on…and so on.

The never-ending focus on THE WHAT compromises a lot of managers and a lot of teams – maybe it’s because so many get locked into a permanent rinse cycle and invest less time where it should be – in THE HOW.

Where do we most often see this obsession with Numbers Mania with many companies?

Why it’s the standard Business Review cycle where successive waves of personnel are marched before “senior leaders” to present their business – long, analytics laden, and often sleep inducing power point monologues – with an occasional interjection from the audience to signal authority and position.

I once worked with a manager that invested 4 plus weeks of her time in preparing for a 90 minute Business Review – because she had to be ready for the “show.”

Did it move her business forward? Or maybe, a better question – did the investment of time justify the return?

The answer was no for the first question…and a h**** no for the second.

Which takes me to advice I received a long, long time ago that I attempt to carry forward today – especially when I’m working with formal people leaders.

  • Data analysis is intended to lead to insights that can propel your business – not as an advanced calculus course.
  • The best leaders can describe their business and their opportunities on the back of a napkin – less is more.
  • If you’re constantly asking others to present to you their business plans and/or to deliver business reviews, think long and hard about one question – is this being done for them or to them?
  • No business discussion is effective if it deteriorates into a presentation – every party in attendance should be there to help move the business and NOT to simply hear about the business. There is often an assembly of “chiefs” around the table who contribute little – they’re better served bringing the doughnuts and coffee.

In some of our workshops we talk about a simple flow that seems to resonate – and perhaps remind.

  • Data should transfer into Information
  • Information should transfer into Knowledge
  • Knowledge should lead to Insights
  • Insights can carry us to Wisdom
  • Wisdom should inform Strategy (and it’s in Strategy and Execution that we move the business forward) 

Too simple a proposition? Maybe – but for the countless victims of Data Assault, one to consider.




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