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Data Is Just the Beginning of the Conversation

Most organizations I work with put significant effort into collecting their business performance/Balanced Scorecard results data and creating results reports. So much so that everyone (from data collectors and owners, to executives and strategic objective owners) is relieved when the process is done.

However, what if I told you that all that work your organization puts into collecting data and producing those reports is just the beginning of the high-value work and NOT the end? Would you be surprised?

What I mean by my statement is that, if you want to reap the REAL benefits of your organization’s strategy management efforts you’ve got to move from a focus on performance measurement (i.e. the scenario I described above) to a focus on performance management.

When your organization makes this important shift in its focus, data becomes the beginning of a high-value, strategy-focused conversation, rather than just the end of a necessary, but somewhat mechanical, process.

Many organizations hold results review meetings that look and feel like this: Executives and senior leaders approach the meetings with dread because they’re a boring regurgitation of the minutiae of an interminable number of performance results reports. Detailed performance results are reviewed by business unit silo, presenters take a “duck-and-cover” approach to discussing areas of underperformance, and vague, issue-specific improvement plans are offered when color-coded business performance demands it. Everyone is happy to leave these meetings so that they can get back to their “real work”.

I know that this sounds depressing and it is. However, this is exactly what happens in countless organizations. And it’s precisely what you get when you are focused on performance measurement, and when data and report production is the objective of your work.

In contrast, when your organization’s focus is on performance management, your objective is to use performance results to better understand your strategy, to assess its progress and identify key, cross-company strategic issues and risks, and to develop plans to keep your strategy moving on a forward trajectory. The only way to do this is to leverage data and performance results to explore your strategy and situation in a forum that enables honest sharing, information and knowledge exchange, learning, and collaboration.

When you do this, data acts as the catalyst for high-value conversations.

Making the transition from a focus on performance measurement to performance management requires a subtle but important shift in emphasis – from pure results reporting to analyzing results with an eye to discovering the implications for your organization’s business strategy and strategy execution capabilities. When this shift is successfully made, “results review meetings” take on a new flavor and have a new vibe – they become interesting, “must attend” events where the juices flow, important organizational connections are made, and exciting things happen.

Here are the keys to having this new kind of meeting in your organization.

First, ban results review discussions from your meetings – forever! This doesn’t mean that you’ll stop assembling business performance results data and producing preliminary analysis on results (remember – you need data to begin the conversation!). However, gone are the days when meetings are consumed by results data reviews. Begin with the expectation that relevant data and analysis will be reviewed by attendees prior to coming to your new strategy discussion meetings.

Set up your new meeting to focus on exploring a series of questions that leverage performance results data and its preliminary analysis:

● What help or advice would you like from the group to help you resolve a specific business issue or problem, improve performance, gain deeper insight into an issue and/or its drivers, etc.?

● How has our strategy (i.e. strategic objectives and priorities) been performing over the past quarter? Looking at the organization as a whole, what are our results telling us?

● What are the implications for strategy execution? Are we moving forward? What’s getting in our way?

● What are our key strategic issues and risks (and how should we respond)? Do we have any systemic (cross-organizational) issues and/or risks? What are the root causes and what must we do about them?

● Is there anything going on in our external environment we need to be aware of and what are the implications for our strategy/strategy execution plans?

● Is our strategy “working”? Why or why not? How do we know?

● What, if any, changes are required? What are they and by when? How will they help us move forward and how will we know that they have worked? What will be different, how, by when?

Now – who wouldn’t get excited by a meeting that allows you to dig into such meaty and meaningful questions and discussions?

This is exactly what making data the beginning of the conversation looks like in action!

Is your organization focused on performance measurement or performance management? Your response will determine whether you are sub-optimizing your strategy management efforts or engaging in high-value activities that deliver a significant ROI (i.e. strategy execution success and business performance results achievement).

How can you tell where the focus is in your organization? Just ask and answer this one simple question:

Is data the beginning of the conversation or just the end of a process in your company?

Your answer will tell you exactly what you need to do next to get the most out of your strategy management journey!

1 Comment

  1. Louis Roussinl
    Jul 23, 2017

    Thanks Sandy.
    Geat analysis and advice. Louis