Opportunity: The rate of change requires leaders to adapt their workflows, habits, and decision-making workflows to incorporate real-time data that inform iterative management disciplines.
Resolution: Define the data needed to support strategic decisions and then integrate data into regular decision-making events to increase the propensity and capacity for success.
I will admit I’ve been in a Ferrari going over 180 miles per hour before. And it was awesome. But I want to also clarify, I wasn’t the one driving.
It felt amazing as long as I was looking ahead. When I turned to the left or right, everything was a complete blur. I loved it while it was happening but questioned how smart it was to be between a couple of metal sheets going that fast when it was all over.
This is exactly what the speed and pace of change feel like for most leaders. You are either:
So far removed from the field that you don’t have a sense of urgency around change
In touch with the speed of change but are struggling to understand how to develop a shared sense of urgency with your executive team
Thriving in the midst of change because you are capable of remaining agile even in legacy business settings
The Problem of Leading Without Data
Most leaders were not groomed, trained, nor are fully equipped to make real-time project decisions based on regularly refreshed data. And this is a systemic problem that stands in the way of becoming a truly learning-based organization.
Without data, a leader is left with past experiences, personal bias, and unqualified projections.
It might seem completely chaotic to think you could make different decisions every day about an ongoing project. But this is the new normal. Waiting too long to adjust or adapt could cost you time, money, and opportunity.
You can’t know if you’re up, down, or sideways if you’re not challenging or validating your perceptions about what’s working and what’s not.
Most leaders were trained to use reporting as a means to describe what has already happened. While there still is a place for that in management, leadership requires a new set of skills in the era of digital transformation. A leader is someone who looks ahead, anticipates obstacles, and plans to maximize the impact opportunities just ahead.
There Are Five Important Areas Where Data Should Be an Active Participant in Shaping Leadership Decisions:
Customer Experience Decisions. Whether you’re measuring customer segment values, processing survey responses around digital and non-digital interactions, or evaluating lifetime value, your customers are telling you their intent by their behavior. If you’re not listening and adapting, you aren’t building loyalty.
Product Development Decisions. How you design and evolve the products and services you deliver should be much more than a matter of process, efficiency, and internal operational structures. What you learn from your customers should also inform what you bring to market. This can be measured in product categories, the channel of purchase, top-line revenue, margins, cost of sales, pricing forecasts, supply chain costs, etc. Just because you like your product today doesn’t mean the market will continue to support it tomorrow.
Marketing and Sales Decisions. It’s time to take funnels (stages of buyer commitments) and journeys (phases of a connection, affinity, and trust) seriously. Each brings a series of measures that provide key insights. Funnels and journeys are the x and y axes of market engagement. They also provide the data necessary to project leading indicators of growth and market opportunities. Within funnels and journeys, you’ll elevate your thinking above channel-specific metrics and start to see the holistic picture of reach, engagement, acquisition, cost per conversion, cost per sale, average transaction amount, frequency of transactions, persona building for targeting, segmentation, etc. These can dramatically influence revenue projections and carefully refine where marketing dollars should be applied to deliver the best return on investment.
Operational Decisions. You don’t create operational dependencies based on precedent or preference. You should base it on what’s necessary to deliver the solution to the market your target customer or audience needs from you today and in the quarters ahead. That will change over time. So, your headcount, hierarchy, team structures, project prioritization, and allocation of resources should regularly be adapted based on real-time data.
Vision & Strategic Decisions. Data provides context and feedback that is critical to turning your next big idea into an actionable plan with a clear line of sight to creating new business value in the market. This is where managing your customer base through portfolio segmentation rather than channels will give you a quick look at the big picture of leading and lagging indicators of growth. The best strategies should provide a mechanism to whittle away at the good, so you can stay focused on the best chance for success.
If You Are Going to Lead, You Better Develop a Healthy Relationship With Data.
There was a time when five and 10-year strategic planning processes were normal. And for the most part, the conclusions you came to were accurate because the data didn’t change that much. But just consider the change that has taken place in your context of leadership over the last 10 years, 10 months, and even 10 days.
Vision without data is like driving with your eyes closed.
Data can provide a true and accurate narrative around your present, not just your past. It’s not uncommon for prevailing narratives among executive teams to stand in contrast to each other as well as the objective data once measured. You need to resolve that dissonance. Otherwise, you risk making decisions without all the information.
And if everyone isn’t on the same page and rowing in the same direction, you won’t be able to make the pivots necessary to understand, integrate, and assimilate the change required to keep pace with the demands of the marketplace.
Data is not someone else’s job. It’s yours. That means every leader, manager, and supervisor has a responsibility to use data to co-create and collaborate in real-time through interdisciplinary and interdependent teams to continue to bring value-creating products and solutions to the market that expand reach and engagement.
Ben Stroup is Chief Growth Architect and President at Velocity Strategy Solutions where he helps leaders design, develop, and deploy smarter business growth strategies. Ben is a futurist, disruptor, and data champion. He leads a team that takes a structured learning approach to business challenges, which allows them to assist leaders in bridging the gap between ideas, innovation, and revenue—taking ideas from mind to market.
Velocity Strategy Solutions is an on-demand, next-generation business strategy and management consulting firm which provides clients with a relentless focus on data, execution, and results that positively impact the bottom line. Velocity delivers integrated people and revenue strategies combined with a disciplined approach to growth architecture that elevates the capacity of leaders, teams, and organizations to succeed and win more.