Have you ever been in a meeting where you watch an executive team member start referencing data or information and you realize they’re pulling that information out of thin air and not the system the organization has in place to manage that very data? It’s horrifying.
Many years ago I watched this unfold and I recall being struck by the realization of what this did to the team’s view of the organizations data management system. It was the equivalent of watching someone slash the tires of a race car that was seconds away from the start of a race. It wasn’t “certain doom” per say, but it meant that car and its crew had to work really, really hard to get it back to a place of contention. I was witnessing a team being told, between the lines, ‘it doesn’t matter what the data says, we’re going to base our decisions on what we *think* it says…without actually looking at it’.
It also demonstrated that at the highest level of the organization there was a lack of buy-in to the value of that data management system.
This has stuck with me for years.
It’s easy to understand that if the data management system isn’t what is being leaned on during organizational planning and meetings, that system isn’t going to get the love, or use, it deserves. If leaders don’t make data integrity/governance a priority, staff are inclined to create alternative methods of capturing, tracking, analyzing and reporting.
How do we ensure our organization takes our data management seriously? What steps can we take to make sure that when any discussion about the performance of our organization, their actual data is at the center of the storyline?
I believe that demonstrated leadership buy-in is of critical importance. Leaders need to walk the talk when it comes to data within their organization. I’m going to get to some points about this very topic later on, but before I do, I want to share with you some lessons I think help foster a culture of data integrity which in turn make demonstrated leadership buy-in much easier.
Accept No Alternatives
Data is pulled from data management system X. No exceptions. If we are having a meeting and we need data, it’s coming from ‘the system’. Someone is talking about data but says they aren’t sure if that’s the true story – a take away item from that discussion is the data in question is validated via the data management system – if this can be done in real time during the meeting, great. If not, as soon as afterward as possible.
In my opinion, this puts the onus on ensuring that mission critical data is within the organizational data management system.
A recent example I ran into was one where a new process was rolled out to track approvals on something. Previously requests could have been approved on the phone, in the hallway during a fly-by chat, in an email, or through an IM chat. As of the date of rollout for the new approval process, if the request was not routed through the form (a Microsoft Forms Pro form that triggered a Flow through Power Automate which triggered a two stage approval process through our business strategy and finance departments), then the request wasn’t getting the time of day.
It must be in the form or it doesn’t exist. Period. Who reinforced this message? The CFO and VP of Business Strategy. Case in point: Leadership buy-in.
Explain the Supply
When there are team or company-wide meetings where results, forecasts, pipelines, or data is being presented, equip your leaders not only with the data but the verbiage to go with it. An organization’s leadership team wants to ensure the team has confidence in the systems they have in place. To do this, they should be referencing that the information has been produced through the data management system.
Sure, the team hears you, the “admin”, when you talk about how the data in the system is giving us the information we need to make our decisions. But we’re the admins and data folks – we’re supposed to think / talk about the data that way. When mission critical data is presented and talked about in meetings, it helps show that this isn’t just a pipe-dream of us admins, it’s the company reality.
Manage your leaders to say things like “CRM shows us that…” or “this pipeline, prepared in [ system x ] demonstrates…”. These small, subtle inclusions in that presentation or discussion reinforce that the organization leverages the data management system to inform its decisions and planning. It’s not just saying “Use the system because we said to use it”, it’s demonstrating that the data is, in fact, used.
Training is for EVERYONE
When you do training sessions with your company, include the leaders. Talk to them ahead of time and explain to them that their attendance and participation is critical to demonstrating the value of the system to the organization.
Naturally, leaders are busy. Work with them to find pockets of time that work for them to attend sessions, and encourage them to engage in the training in real time, or to post to the comments/chat portion of the training material. Again, we’re talking about demonstrated leadership here. If our leaders demonstrate they are engaged in the system, it’s going to pay dividends to your user adoption plan.
Don’t get me wrong – this is not an area I think is an “easy win”. Executives are busy and you may only get a small amount of time. In my experience, they want nothing more than the organization to use the system infrastructure that is in front of them. They are eager to have those systems support organizational efficiency, and having staff putting data in their own spreadsheets and file drives is not efficient nor effective practice. As a result, they are happy to drop in a line or two in presentations that help frame the critical nature of the organizational systems used.
Not sure where to start? Here’s one simple thing you can do right now:
Brainstorm a one or two names of executive / leadership personnel in your organization that you could count on to be system champions.
Do you agree with the sentiment here? Do you have other methods you use to achieve leader buy-in? Are there aspects that aren’t covered here you think readers would benefit from? I’ve shared but a few things I’ve come to learn, but I know there are other tactics out there. Drop a line in the comments!
We’re all learning. Why not learn together?