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The eXcel Files

Updated: Sep 2, 2021

The truth is out there.

7 real stories of info wars and the fight to identify business objectives.

#1 Myth Busting, Seeing is Believing

Summarising data to managment teams has been mastered for a while now but creating visibility of the building blocks of complex activities in way that helps you ignite positive communications around complex operations business wide activities is . Beneath the ‘KEY’ performance indicators there is a wide range of indicative metrics that are meaningful to your team and without them being tracked and traced and woven into business conversations for accountability there is a lot of room for guesswork and assumption.

Transparency around business performance allows for progressive conversations but you cannot just launch data transparency into an operation overnight and hope that it changes everything. The relationship people have with the systems that alter how people communicate with their colleagues and customers needs buy-in, understanding, and must come from a place of trust and nurture. It does not sit with one person or team, we all have a share in it as data creators, collectors, analysts, and influencers, and the responsibility is shared. Harder still, is that the integrity of the data that gets you closest to how the world is working often sits with your most junior team who have the least business experience and weakest share in the business. 

With a background in buying and selling stock, knowing where stocks were sent and where it sold has created many myth busts. Was it price, or distribution, customer perception or something else...causation can easily get lost in the memories of big teams. Being able to sit down and see, not just top-line performance, but the cause and correlations that drive those top-line metrics is the measure of great data. Great information occurs when data is designed to connect your teams activities to identify trends in a way that engages your people in operations. The audience matters and your audience is unique to your business. Timing is important too. You need the information in the natural sequence at the right time to make informed decisions.

Dashboard creation for management’s reports is easier than connecting the meaningful sub-level information that teams use to achieve their top-line performance. Everyone needs to have visibility of great information to do their job and add value to their activities. I have countless real examples of situations where I've helped overworked colleagues who only know how to view the roll-up of everything rather than concise information that shows where the plan is going awry and take action where it is needed. I’ve also seen senior management enjoy great metrics because someone has switched off a data flag in the system that indicates poor service activity rolling up into top-line reporting. Interrogating the data is only a fraction of the help people need to find more joy in the digital workplace. Empowering people to be able to design their own fluid routines that enable them to manage the volume of work and have timely information and still be creative is what data literacy is all about. People are part of the system. Does everyone in your team have great information and work routines enabling them to excel in their line of work? If not, why not? If it's access to affordable support, ivity exists to improve access to affordable relevant data communication and analytics skills, lets chat and find out how we can supercharge your operations without sidelining your existing team.

#2 Happy Disorganised Chaos

Why do teams make repeat errors?

This has been my observation in complex supply chains...

Often in teams working with absolutely chaotic routines, the root cause of why people have always followed a flawed process is because the person who instructed them to do it, is well liked and well respected and people don’t want to upset them; or people don't have the confidence and technical skills to evolve the process.

Creating a healthy appetite to raise the bar and constantly work on improving the bigger picture is no easy feat. It can easily feel like just too much change if it is disruptive and displaces long servers which compromises your culture and trust. If you get the right balance of plan - review - do, you can be methodical and balanced in your approach to continuous improvement delivered by the whole team. The plan - review - do process brings teams together and then builds inclusion. Taking business performance insights into these meetings leads to progressive conversations and you benefit from nurturing the diversity in your teams by supporting everyone to have a voice.

I worked with a warehouse that for years had been accepting stock that was not on purchase orders and booking it onto the stock file. The stock file was out of control so the new management team implemented a zero discrepancy policy. In no time at all, a whole aisle in the warehouse was filled with stock earmarked for Return to Vendor. The products not on PO were been logged in a spreadsheet with no validation or design thinking. The log looked like this:

*Nickname of courier* over delivered 3 packs of stuff on Tuesday, logged by *Nickname of data enterer*.

We had a little brainstorm, what were the reasons for variances? What did we need to know for arranging collection or accepting goods? We agreed reasonable time scales for achieving a solution. In one week we had a validated tracker in Excel that allowed us to capture all the details really easily so that we could action a return. It summarised the stock in the aisle in such a way that we were creating visibility of the workload impacting the team 30 miles up the road. We designed it so that archived arranged collections created management information that enabled us to take information into collaboration meetings with our suppliers to discuss delivery performance improvements. This enabled us to tackle the root causes of variances - in many cases we were ordering the incorrect order quantities.

It is our human nature that people will work around a bug in the system because it creates an opportunity to talk regularly to a person they enjoy talking to. Data design thinking around efficiency must recognise that humans like human interaction at work. Recognising this, whilst designing slicker processes that add value and reduce time helps get team buy in. Do you need help evolving improved new ways of working to claw back lost margin and at the same time improve people's work experience? That is why we offer data relationship help. It's a people thing.

#3 Blame IT *ambiguous title warning*

How often is it the case that the new system or upgrade did not deliver all the promises that the business signed up to?

When the team failed to execute well, how many times have you heard the system get the blame. "I don’t have access to the information to do my job efficiently... it's because the IT team have not unlocked or designed it for me".

NOOOOOOO NOOO NO! The IT team don't understand the nuances of your job but they do understand where the back end of your database is and keep it safe and backed up and connected to other databases. It is the responsibility of colleagues in the business function to unlock access to meaningful data and assemble it into telling information and ensure the right people have the right info to do their jobs.

I joined a training team during peak trade and I was making sales decisions on the stock due in, stock on hand & sale orders received. In week three, I realised that stock due in was being depleted whilst the purchase order was being put away in the warehouse (sometimes this could take three days) and I never got a sniff at selling that stock. So I went and had a conversation with the IT team. Within minutes they introduced a new view company-wide to show the stock available in the warehouse as it was being picked. “We’ve been asking for this for years" said a number of long-standing members of the team.

When you talk to IT professionals a little bit of systems theory goes a long long way in our complex digital world. Never assume IT know what you do with the data they unlock for you. Translating is a skill but its not like learning an entirely different language, a relationship with your IT partners does help. If you don't have translator skills, beware of salespeople who will sell you a system you don’t necessarily need. It pays to be loosely acquainted with your back end and the have great relationships with the people in your IT team.

If you need energetic and innovative ways to develop IT as a core business function team, I will guide you. Please don't have a roadmap when you can have a conversation.

#4 Knowledge is Power

Sharing knowledge is a key component of learning. When you fully understand something you are in a position of influence and power.

In collaborative work environments, knowledge sharing is actively encouraged and it fosters a learning culture. I have been fortunate to work with businesses that thrive on learning. In big corporates, this has been assisted with Learning Academies, natural work team knowledge- share initiatives, and lots of socials. In small family firms, this has been a desire for a can-do approach and leadership that encourages you to raise the bar within a limited hierarchy.

Their mantra has been if we only do what we have always done we will never achieve more, better, or faster.

Understanding how your systems works means that you can influence how you work and prioritise your workload. Your systems should work for you and yet so many systems have people working for them. The confidence needed to influence complex systems has lagged behind the digital disruption at work. Partly because the pace of change has been so rapid and people are exhausted but it starts with leadership enabling and empowering teams to find marginal gains.

If you want to kick-start some knowledge share around making work processes better, I facilitate motivational learning lunches that will kick start conversations that seek efficiency around operational processes and share top tips on quick wins to carve out time to make work better.

#5 Immeasurable Beings

I love the stories of the successful people who were told in former environments they would not amount to much. I really believe that success is access to opportunities, having mentors who share their experience, and having a healthy disrespect for the people who will disparage you - there will be many. Keep learning and keep an open mind. In my career, I have experienced managers who have left me alone to sink or swim and have invested no time giving me any kind of work induction or support. Fortunately not in my early career! However, I see with increasing regularity inexperienced people being thrown in at the deep end and being left to drown in the convoluted systems, unable to organise their workload.

In data science the programming of algorithms relies on the labeling of data so that the computer can then learn and make decisions. We know that labeling humans is very difficult and full of biases and label theory shows that it can even be self-fulfilling.

ivity very much promotes data that is thoughtfully collected and is designed to indicate real-world patterns that facilitates conversations and delivers progressive outcomes. I offer data mentorship to help you with the data communication expertise your business needs access to, if you're at low data maturity or if you just need a lifeline for high churn areas where people cannot grasp the demands of the role and need support, I support through mentoring and providing skills on demand.

#6 Toxic Culture

Blame cultures and toxic environments that use fear to quash open conversations all thrive off a lack of accountability. Making decisions supported with science as well as creativity has allowed my quieter voice to speak volumes. Trial and error are important and creating a history to review the lessons is vital.

Accountability is best embedded when the team are supported to deliver business metrics and create high performing teams that are part of one great culture.

Everyone has time to gossip so make sure the business chat is supported with some measured facts around the business performance. Work routines need to be enjoyable for there to be joy in work and great data creates transparency and builds trust.

#7 Talking BS

Business is as fashion conscious as the Catwalk.

Naming conventions in data is really important. Getting business language embedded into your team's conversations is key to quality. When you want the data to tell its own story or indicate a theme as it amasses data, quality of data is important.

People thrive off new buzzing trends and that is why at ivity we help you translate the business objects and make sense of the world your business is operating in. Your customer's language will change, but you must keep up the dialogue. You might think I’m talking BS - I’m not, I’m talking Information Technology and IT matters.

At ivity we are working in a business community that leverages data for great work experience and uses data for good and tech for good. We want the brands and businesses we work with to make great operations enjoyable for their people so that consumers of their services recognise this too. We love working and believe everyone should have decent jobs. We help you channel your people's energy into great activities. Tech advances mean that we should be working less and able to share the work more easily. Chat with us and let's make this happen!

Business is a force for good. ivity is here to provide access to data skills on demand and be the supercharge you need without sidelining your existing team.


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