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Why data can have an edge over instinct

Why data can have an edge over instinct
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First Published: Sun, Jul 04 2010. 11 52 PM IST

Analytics at Work -- Smarter Decisions, Better Results: By Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison, Harvard Business Presspages,214 pages, Rs795.
Analytics at Work -- Smarter Decisions, Better Results: By Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison, Harvard Business Presspages,214 pages, Rs795.
Updated: Sun, Jul 04 2010. 11 52 PM IST
For the longest time, important businesses have relied too heavily on the rule of the “golden gut”—the experience and judgement of the decision maker. Analytics at Work is about using data and analysis to make the right decisions. Leadership, according to the authors, is one of the five most critical components of effectively using analysis. So what are the qualities an analytical leader needs to develop? Find out for yourself. Edited excerpts from the book:
Develop people skills
Analytical leaders need to have good people skills—a trait that is not as obvious as it sounds. Many highly analytical people seem to prefer computers and data to people; they don’t sympathize, empathize or communicate well with others. But if you don’t have good people skills, you’re not going to be a good leader of any type—including analytical.
Push for more data and analysis
The core responsibility of an analytical leader is to set the expectation that people will make decisions based on data and analysis. If someone comes to you with a recommendation that appears to be based on intuition, you’ll push back if you’re an analytical leader. If you let people get away with sloppy logic and uninformed intuition as their primary decision tools, they won’t naturally move towards analytics and facts—tools that are harder to gather and use. Most people need a bit of urging to move in the analytical direction.
Hire smart people and give them credit for being smart
Analytics at Work -- Smarter Decisions, Better Results: By Thomas H. Davenport, Jeanne G. Harris and Robert Morison, Harvard Business Presspages,214 pages, Rs795.
One of the most important functions of analytical leaders is to hire smart analysts. Many companies in industries that have not previously been very analytical find themselves with relatively few people who can do analytical work, so they have to be brought in. Once they are hired, good leaders provide a stimulating and supportive work environment for analysts and give them credit for the work they do. We’ve all seen managers who present others’ analyses in meetings as their own. These are not good analytical leaders—or good leaders at all.
Set a hands-on example
Analytical leaders aren’t hypocrites. They lead by example, using data and analysis in their own decisions. They do need to have the same passion for fact-based decision making that they want to inspire in the people they lead. Occasionally, they’ll feel the need to get their hands dirty and mess around with data and brainstorm with analysts themselves. They’ll do so because they like analytics and because they want others to emulate their example.
Sign up for results
It’s common to find middle- and lower-level analysts who complain about the lack of analytical leadership in their organizations. But there is something they can do to take leadership. They can commit themselves to achieving a specific result in the part of the organization they serve or control. If they’re in direct mail, they can take responsibility for a certain level of promotional lift. If they’re in Web metrics, they can increase page views. If they’re in supply chain, they can reduce inventory by a specified level. This will advance the analytical orientation of the organization overall, and probably get the person who signed up for the result a promotion if it’s achieved.
Demonstrate persistence over time
Analytical leaders have to be “pluggers”—people who work doggedly and persistently—because changes that apply analytics to decision making, business processes, information systems, culture and strategy hardly happen overnight. Even when they do happen, leaders have to continually revise and update their analytical approaches. So if you want to be an analytical leader, be patient and be prepared to work at it for the long haul.
Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Press, Boston, Massachusetts.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Jul 04 2010. 11 52 PM IST