If you think your organization needs to improve its data culture, what can you do ? What is a practical course to take to get achieve that improvement?
Step 1: Set a baseline. Have an organization wide discussion about what you are going to attempt and then have everyone take the Data Fluency Inventory (a survey available on this site). The result will be a score that indexes your organization’s current data culture. This will give you a base for discussing what changes you should attempt and whether or not the changes you try are successful.
Step 2: Get help. A lot of the problems around data culture come from the tunnel vision that all of us have about our daily activities. Find a helpful outsider, a teacher, a tutor, or a helpful consultant that can be part of your discussions and who will be able to look at your organization with fresh eyes.
Step 3: Try to decide what kind of organization you are in terms of your data culture.
Are your people already data aware and your decisions already guided and evaluated using data ? If so you are in “recon pull”, you can give mission style orders (where you tell people what their goal is but not how to get there) and expect group leaders to be flexible and creative as they respond to conditions on the ground.
Does your organization mostly collect historical data? Do you use reports to illuminate the past but not to guide future decisions. Do your members require education and encouragement to come to grips with the complexity of their data ? This is an organization in “command push” mode. You will need to give people detailed plans to follow while you put programs in place to up their game. You will need to look at your hiring process and at what kind of training and opportunities for independent work you offer. There is nothing wrong with finding yourself in this mode. It just means you have a lot of training and build up to do. Its a good thing to know that, right now, you should focus on walking rather than trying to run.
When you make a self assessment you are in a position to try to make plans to change. The plans you make and the things you try should match the current state of your data culture.
Step 4: Start working on a data flow map. In order to come to grips with your data culture you will need to know what data is flowing through your organization, who is changing it and where it can be found. There are tools you can use to make your map, or you can just put it in a spreadsheet or a word document.
The important things about a data flow map are true about the all such maps, no matter how complex they are.
The map, and changes to the map, need to be part of your daily discussions about data.
The map will never cover all of your data flows, but the effort of maintaining it will boast your data culture no matter how complete, or incomplete, it is.
Step 5. Add some habitual routine to your daily practice that makes you look up from your tunnel focus on the current problem and the current state of your data. You can decide that every time you find yourself in a discussion about data your will play the “penny game”. Or you can play “kick the bucket” and put three little buckets on your conference table and take the time to discuss what data you think is in each bucket before you make any decisions.
Step 6. Make plans for change. Implement your changes. The plans you make and the way you try to implement them will be different depending on your own self-assessment as an organization. But while you’re making your plans and while your implementing them, take the chance to practice the penny game or kick the bucket. As you work through your plans diagram the pieces of your data flows that your are thinking about into your data flow map.
Step 7. After you have worked away at your changes for a while….Go back to step 1 and repeat.
Have another organization wide discussion and go back and have everybody take the Data Fluency Inventory again. Compare this score with your base line score. Discuss what you expected to happen and what actually happened. Talk about what you might try next.
Just like an exercise program, don’t expect your success to be spectacular, and do expect that you will often fall back and have to start the process again.