What’s Your Story?

“What do you do all day?”  “How is this report supposed to help me?”  “There is a lot of data here, but I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to tell me…”

Ever hear that in your organization?  With more businesses preaching data-driven decisionmaking and managing ‘by the evidence’, getting the right data ‘up’ to our managers is critical to the success of our companies as well as our careers.

What Does My Manager Need to Know?

I am going to assume (I know…I know…) that your manager trusts you to do your job – hence the reason you were hired, get paid, and still have that job.  This means they need the vital few, not the trivial many, when it comes to reports.

I Have a Lot of Data…

Each company, department, even employee, has two or three core/primary tasks that define their existence.  In an interview with Warren Bennis, Jack Welch mentioned that he needs just three measures to run a business: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow.  Are there other measures used? Of course.  Yet that is all Jack Welch needed to get a view of a company as big as General Electric.

It Is About Information, Not Data!

Some usual measures that are just data, and their actionable equivalents:

Usual:  average transaction per customer; Actionable: median transaction per customer. Why?  The spread might be pretty big.  See Seth Godin’s explanation on this.

Usual: score of 3.1 on a 1-5 scale; Actionable: score of 3.1 on a 1-5 scale, with a goal of (insert goal here).  Have an actual v. goal gives meaning and context to the measure.

Usual: List of our top 25 clients by revenue; Actionable: what drivers make these 25 the top 25? Understanding the levers of profitability give your the opportunity to increase that profitability.

You get the idea.  Provide actionable context.

Tell Me A Story

Once you have your data transformed to information, think through what you want to tell your manager.  Highlighting successes and where you need help are what you’re supposed to do.  An executive summary with your usual reports give you the opportunity to direct your manager to what matters.

Examples: Our revenue increased 12% over goal due to the signing of three additional clients not in our forecast.  We missed budget this month by $2,300 due to the voluntary recall of our widget product.  You get the idea.

Remember, your manager has to tell stories too.  If they don’t have good information from you, what story will they tell?

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