One of the most memorable scenes in the movie, A Few Good Men, was when Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) blew his top and shouted “You can’t handle the truth!”
Man, I love that movie.
Oddly enough, that line pops into my head sometimes when I’m looking at different situations in our work. I don’t blurt it out or anything (although that would leave an impression) – but the thought sometimes crosses my mind.
In this era of Big Data, there is an ongoing struggle of how to get to the “truth” which, in my line of work, truth = trustworthy, useful data. Once you have it, that struggle continues in how best to turn that data into productive gains.
Getting to the Productive Gains phase isn’t easy. That’s definitely the struggle part – and can produce all kinds of financial and emotional baggage for your team. So you want to make sure that whatever gains are planned, that they offset that baggage. Otherwise, why go to all the trouble.
Can You Handle the Truth?
Most will respond Yes (and likely be pretty adamant about it). But in HL Group’s nearly 20 years of solution delivery, we’ve seen plenty of organizations that actually can’t handle it – at least not when we first meet them. But they can get there.
In our experience – there are three things that you need to have to get to that dream of Productive Gains:
Goals: What is (are) the end results that we seek?
Actions: How will we get there?
Support: Is everyone on board with Why this is being done?
You may be surprised how hard it is for some teams to agree on goals – especially when it comes to data (something frequently viewed with distrust). Everyone may have their own idea of what is the most important thing to focus on as an end goal. And, even if you think you agree on an end goal, what that goal looks like for one person may differ significantly to another.
So do you know what your goal is? Are you all in agreement of what your goal is/looks like/means? It may sound overly dramatic – but if you can’t nail down what your Goal is, there’s no point starting any effort. This is typically the first challenge we address with clients. Without that clear goal, we don’t know what data to harvest, much less how to use that data in our solutions.
Once we have a clear set of business goals, we can then complete the task of finalizing the design and execution of the solution to support these objectives. Here is where the next round of challenges can show up – with your team. How we manage those challenges translates directly to the overall success of the project – and the satisfaction of your staff.
If you want to meet your goals – you need to make sure you make it easy for your team to use the solution. As much as possible, whatever you put in place needs to minimize operational disruption and dovetail into your business processes. New tools that don’t fit smoothly into overall operations are usually the first to die by being worked around.
Next you want to make sure that the solution is easy for the user. User interfaces and tasks should be intuitive – and make the user’s life easier. Here too, if the tools are difficult, confusing, or headache-inducing, users will find a way around it. As a result, those finally-agreed-upon goals will be undermined at the ground level.
Why are we doing this? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard users ask this question. And what’s worse, often their supervisors can’t answer that question either.
Success of any effort hinges on everyone involved working in support of that effort. Your data goals and efforts are no different. To get the support across the teams, they need to understand the Why.
There are different approaches for gaining that understanding. Often, having input early in the process (even in the goals definition) helps to foster support of the initiative. Connecting their role to the impact and ultimate success of the goal can help them see the value. Establishing a feedback methodology can also increase their visibility to their impact to the goals – and give them a means to continue to provide their input.
People feel valued when they are engaged – and feel heard. In fact, staffs that feel valued are more productive.
The second part of support is addressing that all-too-human emotion, fear. Let’s face it, change breeds fear. And new systems, especially ones that may shed some previously unseen light on operations, can increase fears to the point that sabotage can occur.
Fear generally stems from two areas:
- People may be “found out” that previous reporting might have been less than accurate – or that whatever image/status that area was projecting isn’t exactly true.
- People may be concerned that there will now be visibility to what’s “actually” going on and that they will now have to produce (repeatedly) to a different (better?) standard.
We see the issue of fear a lot. This often comes from the mid-level management that had less input on the overall corporate goals for the solution – but more actual execution responsibilities.
Getting past fear takes the other support actions (especially early input) and couples this with drawing a line in the sand. It’s not a stretch to say whatever reports or impressions that were formed in the past were formed on less than stellar information – which is why there are changes now. Giving a type of amnesty for the past will go a long way to garnering support across the team.
I’m a strong believer in that I want the best data possible to assist me with any of my decisions – personal or business. Without the Truth (as much as it may hurt), I have a much lower chance to be success in my pursuits.
Can your team handle the truth? What are some of the challenges that you’ve seen?
Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.