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    « Red eye flights, skinny jeans, and being tough enough to work here | Main | The State of the Future »
    Tuesday
    Jul302013

    Three keys if you want to become a more data-driven organization

    So you've bought into it -  Big Data, Moneyball for HR, workforce analytics - all of it. And whatever you call this increased reliance on data, analysis, and more objective information in your talent processes, chances are this represents a pretty significant change to the way you've always done business, how managers and leaders have made decisions, and perhaps most importantly how you evaluate and reward employees.

    Of the many tough challenges you have to negotiate if indeed you are the designated numbers geek/quant in your shop, once again the world of sports offers three recent examples, (NOT AGAIN), that help to point out some key focus points or areas of concern as you hatch your nefarious plans.

    One - Make sure you as the 'stats' person, knows how to translate the numbers into strategies that are likely to get buy-in from the team. From the SB Nation blog - How and why NBA coaches communicate advanced metric to players, an interesting piece on the Boston Celtics' new coach Brad Stevens and his desire to bring more data and analytics to bear in the organization:

    The numbers don't always offer solutions, but they do tend to generate better options and that's all an NBA team can offer with each possession and every front office decision. That's the next step in the analytics movement. What started in blogs has been appropriated by front offices and has now trickled down to coaches. Communicating those ideas effectively to players is the final hurdle.

    Two - Make sure the team members know how to and understand the importance of doing more accurate self-assessments in light of the new measurements. It is great when management and leaders make the move towards a more data-driven decision making process, but don't forget the folks on the front lines.

    Here is a great example from a recent piece on the WEEI Radio site by former Major League baseball player Gabe Kapler titled STATS 101: Why it's time to re-educate players in meaningful statistics:

    To take it a step further, when we discussed our numbers with our agents, it was in the form of the traditional verticals, the ones we used for decades prior. We correctly assumed that our reps were using these statistics in conversations with the general managers of our clubs. We stood in the truth that our value — our worth as baseball players — was wrapped up in these metrics.

    Times have changed, but substantially less among players. While progressive front offices have altered the way they evaluate us, we have lagged far behind in the way we grade ourselves. It’s akin to unhealthy communication in a relationship.

    Three - Make sure what you are measuring and holding people accountable for, is actually at least largely in their conrol or influence. This really isn't exclusive to a more data-centric approach to business, it applies everywhere. We generally can only control what we can control and penalizing the clever point guard because the slow-footed center can't convert enough of his excellent passes near the rim is not a long-term winning strategy.

    More from the Kapler piece:

     If, for example, we taught pitchers about Fielding Independent Pitching — which truly spotlights what a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts and homers) and removes balls in play, thereby eliminating a fielder’s ability to have an impact on the outcome of a play and consequently a pitcher’s line — we place the responsibility right where it belongs. If we show a hitter how well hit balls and exit velocity/speed off the bat are being examined more and more closely, then the hitter will freak out less when crushing a ball off the pitcher’s forearm and having it ricochet safely into the glove of the first baseman for an out. He may walk back to the dugout thinking, “Ka-ching!” instead of throwing a water cooler and forcing some nearby cameraman to change clothes. 

    Let's do a quick review:

    One -  make sure you know how to communicate the value and merit of these new statistical approaches to the team. 

    Two - make sure the team starts to do their own self-assessments through the lens of these new data-driven approaches

    Three - make sure you are holding people accountable for numbers that they can legitimately influence and can they can own.

    What other tips or recommendations do you have to transform an organization from one that relies on gut feeling to one that counts on the data?

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    Reader Comments (4)

    Steve , You are spot on ! The hard part is not actually "gathering" the data but getting the "humans" to use it strategically and tactically to make better decisions with it. EASY AS 1-2-3 right ?? Dianna

    July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDianna Sheppard

    Hey Steve,

    Really loved the post. Being a long time baseball fan, it has been incredible to see how the advent of Sabremetrics and other ways to understand statistics have fundamentally changed how we look at players, as fans, coaches, and administrators.

    As with most things, when people believe in the system and understand how it can provide value to them and their organization, the results are positive. That's why it's the job of the implementer to explain it in lay-terms for everyone else.

    July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Ross

    Number three is always the toughest, I think. There's such a slippery slope from only holding people accountable for what they can control and allowing "that's not in my job description" to become the unofficial company motto. At least in my experience. It's so tough to get the balance right between encouraging teamwork and assigning personal responsibility.

    July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCari Turley

    Thanks all for the comments. I do agree that the tendency can be to get lost in data and to forget that it is actually people that we are talking about in all these scenarios.

    July 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterSteve

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