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Data .... my new bestie

by Mary Frawley

How different a place is the world we live in now, compared to where we were in at the start of the year 2019!

From a local business perspective and geo-political issues aside, as an operational turnaround focused practitioner, at the outset of an assignment I used to seek out and speak to as many staff and linked parties as possible to take note of their observations. I used to be able to find out how things really got done in a business by speaking to the people there, who often did not follow the ‘official’ processes, and I used to observe, walk, talk and check things. I used to learn from their experiences and I used to explore their knowledge of a business in order to help me swiftly determine root causes of issues.

However, now people are working from home (“WFH”), I’ve become a Zoomer, I’m proficient with Teams and I’m comfortable exploring any other video or communication tool that my clients prefer ….. but not all things are equal. I have unfortunately lost the ability I had to quickly identify a root cause issue because of the WFH lens, and I don’t get to become part of the team in the way I used so I have less business specific cultural understanding when it comes to solution deployment.

With WFH, I can certainly speak to people, but my ability to observe has significantly diminished and I know I will not be able to work as effectively as I used to because I now have to look through a tightly controlled and time limited Zoom or Teams frame.

WFH, or at minimum a hybrid ‘office / WFH’ mix seems to here to stay; the employees love it, they are more productive, it costs a business less and many businesses have converted their office spaces to adapt to the changes in working location flexibility. In June 2021, according to who advise the US government about telecommuting trend data, “Companies that allow remote work are more profitable and have lower turnover rates, and their teams report overall higher happiness.Of course there are different risks (e.g. WFH connection security for one), but let’s park those for now.

Am I better off?...

In truth, I don’t know yet, but I do recognise that to be able to run an effective turnaround I need to upskill and do this quickly. I also realise that I need to really absolutely and totally understand what is inside that data black box within a business.

I am investing my energy and development efforts into enhancing my own data literacy. If I can’t identify root cause issues by following the people, then I’m going to do the next best thing and follow the data.

Why follow the data? …

If I know a process (as evidenced by process maps / organisation manuals etc) then I know what should be done. That element has not changed. But now, even if I must view things through a WFH perspective, by following the data I will still get to find out what is actually being done.

By following the data, I can tell if something is misaligned to the ‘official’ baseline, and by enhancing my understanding of the data I should be better able to follow the root cause breadcrumbs which I can then follow up through Zoom / Team / other with the people. Better data literacy will not only help me with solution deployment, but it will also help me to correctly identify a root cause issue and hopefully allow me to build up the respect of staff.

Fantastic, I’ve discovered a potential WFH work-around, but I also realise that I need help to build up my data literacy in a way that will keep pace with the developments in data and its enabling technology. For that I will need help, as ‘data’ is a vast topic.

The data landscape is massive and in very simple terms consists of the following (which is just an example of considerations and not an exhaustive list):

To develop something robust, I initiated a project to pro-actively seek help from like-minded professionals.

The positive response that:

1. investment in data literacy was a good idea, and

2. eagerness by others to share their own data knowledge, has really energised me.

I’m not alone, I have identified some fab individuals whose thinking is in line with my own, and together we are going to identify, locate and interpret the root cause data breadcrumbs within operational turnarounds …. Welcome to Project Clarity.

Information sources:

The Future of work

Hybrid working

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