Data and Operations
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In today’s operations environments, there is an obsession with data and the availability of operational metrics. “Management Operating Systems” in their various forms seek to impose disciplines around the availability and actionability of key metrics to drive business decisions. Through my career, I have had the privilege of working with a variety of organizations and have experienced various forms of daily KPI meetings, management operating systems, KPI boards and roll up reports. These systems, like any business process, are a tool, and like any tool, the key to their effective use depends on if the organization’s leadership team knows the capabilities and limits of the tool they wield.

We believe and have seen that all issues (even data issues) are fundamentally leadership issues. TSOR’s leadership principles are hierarchical, and as such, help show the proper place for data within organizations. Let us explain:

Principle 1: Trusting Relationships:

People data such as the Predictive Index or Clifton Strengths may help us build relationships by better understanding ourselves and others, but relationship building has always been a human experience. Human connectedness will always be the most important factor in true organizational success. Does your organization’s reliance on data come before building relationships? Does it undermine trusting relationships or dehumanize individuals? These are key questions to check if your organization has a healthy relationship with data. 

Principle 2: Vision and Alignment:

Vision and alignment are how people leverage relationships to get all members of the organization moving in one direction. Data may help the leader set the direction, but the leader must ultimately be willing to take responsibility for the selected course. Does your organization’s reliance on data act as a scapegoat for leaders without the courage to act? Does it slow down decision making or force an overreliance on outside “experts”? Does your organization attempt to use “data” and “facts” to gain internal alignment, or does it know relationships build alignment around vision?

Principle 3: Delegation of Authority (not just tasks):

Delegating true authority is how organizations compound efficiency, develop future leaders, and build a culture of invested and engaged employees. Does your organization’s use of data make front line employees and managers feel like robots with a technocratic overlord? Do your employees have access to data to make decisions, or is data being used to cast blame, armchair quarterback, and erode trust? Do your employees have an appropriate level of access to the metrics you look at, and did they help determine what metrics and goals are KPI’s?

Principle 4: Evaluation of Progress & Course Correction:

Here is the most reasonable place for the use of data. Once trusting relationships have been built within the organization, vision has been cast and alignment around the vision gained, and authority has been given to others, the use of data can absolutely be used to evaluate organizational, department and individual progress. Like all evaluations, the use of data is effective when there is trust between parties, and it is most effective when a subordinate leader can utilize the data to course correct before you even approach them. This is the reason why so many organizations have a toxic culture; we try to make data the primary focus and relationships end up pushed down the to-do list. I have seen organizations turned around through relationship, but I have yet to see one turnaround through data.

Great organizations know how to strike the optimal balance between data and decisiveness, systems and creativity, transparency and trust. Put simply, data is essential in evaluating progress, but it is not the end goal and is ineffective in actually DRIVING change and continuous improvement (change is always a result of human action, and thus courage). Despite this truth, we have seen how oftentimes the pursuit of data becomes a crutch for an organization with two good legs: organizations lean on data instead of depending on their own unique human strengths, and like a crutch, it actually slows progress forward (paralysis by analysis). Countless studies and business cases have shown that AI coupled with human thought and action is the most potent form of data use, with both machine and person able to play to its strengths. The computer is a tool for human use, not some sacred oracle or crystal ball. This means that organizational leaders must still possess the willingness to be decisive and the courage to act, especially the courage to build relationships.

Let’s rise above and lead.

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