Putting the Data to Work

Data rich, information poor? There’s no doubt you’ve heard these four words before. Most performance managers work their you-know-what off to overcome this problem. Yet it still remains one of the most systemic problems in business- managers who are overwhelmed with data on everything from their staffing levels and productivity, to the price of rice in Southeast Asia.

Good performance managers are obsessed with fixing this problem. They try everything from reconfiguring management reports to the sexiest of graphical interfaces. They work to improve data quality, reliability, and validity. They work to deliver the most polished of presentations. But all to often, they fail to ask the most important question of all- SO WHAT?

I once worked for an executive who ran a brewery in South Africa. In one of our conversations, he relayed that every morning when he walked into the production facility, he would ask a series of questions, all targeted at providing 5 critical answers- answers that would populate his “mental dashboard” of performance, providing the indicators he needed to manage that day’s business. The questions ranged from the previous day’s production volume to that day’s temperature and weather forecast. To this day, I’m not even sure what the latter indicator was all about (probably because I’m not a beer executive). Maybe it related to how happy his employees were likely to be if they though they could play golf that weekend- who knows.

The point is that HE knew. These indicators were his most vital source of information, and for that day, his most prized possession. He made decisions based on that information. What’s really important here is that he kept it simple. Five indicators, not fifty. Indicators that could be easily captured, not ones that needed a complicated ERP extract to produce. Ones that could be easily understood and acted upon. Instead of calling them his KPI’s (an overused term that has come to refer to the most complicated of management reports), he referred to them as his DIPI’s (Damn Important Performance Indicators).

Some might see his approach and commentary as over simplified, and maybe even a little trite. But the point is he USED the information he acquired. How many managers in your organization really use the information they get from you? Ask yourself what can you do to create your little set of DIPI’s. Then start putting that data to work!


Author: Bob Champagne is Managing Partner of onVector Consulting Group, a privately held international management consulting organization specializing in the design and deployment of Performance Management tools, systems, and solutions. Bob has over 25 years of Performance Management experience and has consulted with hundreds of companies across numerous industries and geographies. Bob can be contacted at bob.champagne@onvectorconsulting.com

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