Data is nothing without action.
Regardless of what your data says, how great your recommendations are, or how big the opportunity is, without action, it all means nothing.
And in order to act on data, you need the buy-in and commitment from your executive and leadership teams. You need to sell them on why your approach is the right one, what it means and the steps you need to take to turn your data into desired business outcomes.
If you’re the internal data champion for a major data project, you’ve likely seen that getting this commitment is easier said than done. There will always be some level of resistance to projects that require organizational change, and there will always be people who respond more positively to different types of information than others. Keep in mind that many projects involving data do not carry this level of change within your company.
But as the champion, your role is to overcome these barriers and educate your colleagues on the possibilities data provides.
According to the Project Management Institute, internal communication is one of the top reasons why projects fail. So how can you effectively communicate in a way that gets people excited about data and committed to following the path it suggests?
Tell the Story – Not the Data
People like stories. It’s no accident that the most compelling people are also usually the best storytellers. We look for stories in everything that we do, and research has shown that we’re hard-wired to respond to stories.
Stories are persuasive, and a well-constructed narrative can influence how people respond. So when you’re looking to get buy-in from your internal team, make sure you’re telling the story, not the data.
The data itself is simply the jumping-off point. By crafting a narrative around this data, you’re adding context. You’re telling the why behind the what, the meaning behind the numbers, and the reasons behind the recommendations you’re making.
When communicating your results, make connections between the data and the business outcomes you expect to achieve. Link your results to the challenges your organization has been facing, or the opportunities that are out there if you make the right decisions. Frame your story as a journey – where we are today, where we want to go, and what we need to do to get there.
What you’ll find is that, rather than confusing people with raw numbers that don’t mean anything, you’ll be able to get them excited about the journey and what it means for your organization. And people who are excited and enthusiastic are a lot more likely to support your project.
Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Different behavior types will respond to different types of information. This means that you can’t ignore the data entirely. Some people will be on board as soon as they grasp what you’re telling them, while others will want to be more deliberate and understand how you arrived at your conclusions.
For these people, being able to point to the underlying data and methodology behind your recommendations is important. This means understanding the problem you were trying to solve, the model that was built to solve it, and the data that was used to arrive at your results.
Data champions don’t have to be data experts. If you aren’t a data expert yourself, it may be beneficial to bring a member of your data team, whether they are an internal employee or a consultant, who has worked on the project and knows the ins-and-outs of the data itself.
They can provide more technical and detailed information that strengthens your position and addresses any questions or concerns that your colleagues still have. They can also help you develop the story by highlighting which areas are most relevant to certain types of people, and they can show you how you can adapt your presentation depending on your audience so that you can communicate your ideas the right way.
It also helps with succession planning if new people become involved in the project or one of your key team members leaves.
In the end, the people you are getting buy-in from may not need all of the data, but it’s important that you are able to direct them somewhere if they have questions. But more than that, you need to be the one who’s able to explain how the data aligns with the organization’s strategy and why it points to the recommendations you are making for the company.
Create Enthusiasm for Your Data
With more and more data available to organizations, data-driven thinking is becoming critical and can mean significant change. Across departments, functional areas, and teams, a major data project will require new ways of doing things, new approaches to solving problems and making decisions, and new indicators of how success is measured.
Without the commitment from executives and leaders, your data project is not going to reach its full potential. That’s why being able to effectively tell the story behind the data and communicate more than just the numbers themselves is such an important skill for anyone championing a major data project. Working with a knowledgeable data analyst who not only understands the data, but also the implications behind it, can help you craft this story and tailor your presentation in a way that you’ll be able to create excitement and enthusiasm for your project going forward.
If you need help creating enthusiasm for leveraging data within your organization, talk to Shift Paradigm.