Many business owners and managers make decisions based on gut feeling rather than hard facts. Sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. The truth is that facts are far more likely to lead to consistently good business decisions – and that’s where data can help.
In an age when everything can be measured, quantified, and analyzed to gain new insights, it makes sense to use that process to improve your decision making. Basing decisions on what data tells you helps you to implement your business strategy faster and more efficiently, whether you want to increase staff retention, increase efficiency in your manufacturing process, or achieve some other meaningful objective.
However, doing this requires a bit of a mindset shift for most companies, toward a culture of data-based decision making at all levels in the company. There are two key steps in building a culture of data-based decision making: getting buy-in across the whole company, and emphasizing the positive outcomes of using big data. Let’s look at each in turn.
Getting Company-wide Buy-in
Your ultimate aim should be to create a culture in which people naturally want to make better decisions and look to data to help them do so. A good way to sow the seeds for improved decision making is to engage key personnel in developing your big data strategy. For example, if you want to use data to better understand and target your customers, you should involve your marketing head from the outset. Or if you want to improve manufacturing output and reduce unexpected downtime, then you’ll need to get your manufacturing people on board. Encourage those key personnel to become data advocates, creating a “trickle-down” effect.
Another key step is to make sure you actually use the insights you gather from data; don’t just sit on them. This sounds obvious but, after analyzing data to get answers, you really need to act upon the insights found. What you do will encourage your people to shift their thinking toward evidence-based decision making. If you do nothing, you really can’t expect the overall company culture to change. Use that valuable knowledge, demonstrate positive outcomes, and it will be much easier to get buy-in from others.
Here are my top tips for managers looking to facilitate company-wide buy-in. They are designed to help everyone in the business leverage data and move toward more fact-based decision making:
- There are naysayers in every company and negativity can be contagious. Identify skeptics or blockers and spend time engaging them. Use their pain points to show how fact-based decision making can make their job easier.
- Make it easy for people to understand data and pull out the key facts they need to make better decisions. Present insights in an attractive and engaging way. It’s of no use to anyone if key facts are buried in long, dull reports.
- Build and maintain strong links between whoever is analyzing your data, whoever is reporting the insights, and the people making key business decisions. Knowing what the decision makers need to know makes it easier to present information to them.
- Be open about what you are measuring and why, especially if you are gathering data on employees. For example, if you are focused on improving people management, then you are probably going to be measuring what your people do, when, for how long, etc. Understandably, this can make people nervous. Be open about this; people are far more likely to be comfortable if you are honest from the outset and emphasize the positive goals (in this example, building a better workplace for everyone).
- Lead by example and use hard facts as the basis of everything you do. This is harder than it sounds; if you are a successful business owner or manager, good gut instincts have probably played a large part in where you are today. Make a commitment to changing the way you make decisions, and your people will follow.
Emphasizing the Positives of Big Data
There’s no denying it: change is difficult for many people and businesses. And implementing a cultural shift in any organization, whether big or small, is not a quick and easy job. But it is crucial if your company is to make smarter decisions going forward. Focusing on the positive outcomes certainly helps smooth the way.
Broadcast positive goals and outcomes loud and clear. If data has helped reduce waste by 10 percent, then you should be shouting about that success. If you are only at the beginning of your big data journey, share examples from similar companies. Seeing how other people have changed their decision-making processes can provide a helpful nudge in the right direction. Focusing on the good that big data can bring, either with insights from your own business or examples from elsewhere, lays the foundations for fact-based decision making.
Creating a big data mindset isn’t an overnight job – it takes time and dedication to get company-wide buy-in and requires a shift away from gut-based decisions to data-based decisions. But the result is a smart, efficient company that continuously looks to improve the way it does business and is able to spot and act upon new opportunities when they crop up. Big Data for Small Business for Dummies is packed with ideas and information on how to put big data to use in your business, along with real-life examples from a wide range of business sectors.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant, and analytics, KPI, and big data guru. In addition, he is a member of the Data Informed Board of Advisers. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report, and analyze performance. His leading-edge work with major companies, organizations, and governments across the globe makes him an acclaimed and award-winning keynote speaker, researcher, consultant, and teacher.
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