It took a while, but we are getting better at using data to run our business

I was taught that you couldn’t manage what you can’t measure, so I was always looking for data to tell me what was going on. My team told me I was data-obsessed and that I believed the data more than I believed them. There was no question in my mind that hard data was one of the keys to success. I knew I couldn’t force my team to use the data but I could teach them how important it was for making sound decisions.

My idea was that two days a week we would look at an issue facing the business and go through the data we had and what data was missing for us to make an informed decision. We started with customer data. What struck me first was that we didn’t share a common understanding of who our customer is. It took several sessions, but gradually people began to have a common perspective. By the end of two months we were able to talk about our customers, their life style and life stage, and how they might use our products and services.

When we looked at operations data (inventory, on-time delivery, finished stock levels, wastage, etc). The reaction to this was immediate. The team saw the problems and started to deal with them. I asked everyone to develop metrics, which we now use everyday. We are far from being a data-driven company but we pay attention to the facts, we use metrics, and we find ourselves asking more and more questions and collecting more data to make better decisions.