Metrics or gut instinct. Or a balance of the two?

This should make for some interesting conversations

The expression ‘data-driven’ is widely used these days. Data is seen as the gold streaming through an organization. But I’ve come to realize that maybe a more correct term is data-inspired. As teams move away from reports full of hard-to-read statistics and start to rely on data in real-time to support decision-making and the next set of logical actions, then the game is really changing. And it strikes me that managers are going to need to lighten up.

Just read a tweet from Ted Rubin “Data is incredibly valuable, when employed with wisdom, but keep in mind…Intuition, Judgement and Gut-instinct are critical and the true game-changers.”

Equally, I’ve seen observations that warn of the risks of trusting your gut without any evidence to back it up. So maybe the best option is a mix of great data and great action. And note I’ve said action rather than decision-making. Most articles on oversight and governance talk about decision-support. Projects are often referenced as strategic decision-support mechanisms. I can’t help feeling that always requiring people to be in decision-making mode is raising the management bar unnecessarily.

“Data is incredibly valuable, when employed with wisdom, but keep in mind…Intuition, Judgement and Gut-instinct are critical and the true game-changers.”

Now I can hear you saying why am I complicating things. People are there to make decisions – just get on with it. And this is where I think things are changing. Working-from-home (WFH) has revealed, if we care to see it, a whole new cadre of decision-makers close to the operational face of the business who have to get things done, and can’t afford to rely on direct managers to tell them what that is. For this to work managers so used to taking control need to lighten up.

As Steve Jobs said employ the best people you can and then get out of their way.

And that’s where the concept of actions rather than decisions comes into play. Many of the best decision-making processes in place are when people let things unfold rather than feel the need to be strong, directive decision-makers. Does this mean we run the risk of building management-by committee where nothing much ever gets across the line? Well, from a simple perspective committees tend to sit in meeting rooms around a table. WFH removes the table, and hopefully removes the committees.

As Steve Jobs said employ the best people you can and then get out of their way.

I recollect a great case study of one of USA’s major automobile companies facing financial oblivion. The new CEO brought all the regional managers together and asked them for their views on the way forward. All of them rolled out their A3 planning sheets showing that things were tracking along nicely, thanks very much. The CEO reminded them of multi-billion dollar hole they were in, and invited them back in a month’s time to have the same discussion. The following month one of the managers presented an A3 sheet populated with red high-risk areas. Not only was that manager thanked for his honesty but the discussion that ensued demonstrated how effective openness and collaboration could be. When decisions were made they were simply the last step of data-sharing and conversation focusing on industry deep challenges, and the need to build management capability, and fast. And by all accounts, it worked!

When decisions were made they were simply the last step of data-sharing and conversation focusing on industry deep challenges, and the need to build management capability, and fast.

So what does this mean for teams moving forward? It means that strategies become a focal point for interesting conversations rather than a rigid management framework. In that sense maybe this will encourage teams to have fewer strategies than more, and replace what can be constraining detail with bigger conversations. Business cases for new initiatives become more than just a single initiative and can be seen as a way to share thinking, crowdsource ideas, and build delivery capability. Benefits are less about an exhaustive framework of measurable metrics and more about the people in the business prepared to own the organizational change outcomes, often now collaborative, cross-agency ventures. It means project teams can lead the agile way for the wider business through conversations, #tagging and project blogs.

And…imagine launching a conversation about something worth sharing, and being able to #tag the conversation to build organizational IP. From anywhere – for anyone. Democratic management anyone.

So as a solution provider what responsibilities do we have? I watch solution providers roll out user design based on spreadsheets because that’s what people are used to. I see bad design reinforce management by silos in a world screaming for collaboration. I see workflow that is outdated when web-based portals offer flexibility. I see point solutions, such as project management, constrain teams when unification of work, which brings many more people into the mix, offers so much more. As solution providers we must do better. As potential partners let’s share in the innovations because it can only happen together.

And…imagine launching a conversation about something worth sharing, and being able to #tag the conversation to build organizational IP. From anywhere – for anyone. Democratic management anyone.

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