26 July 2017

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'Infect' the Work Place with Data...

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By Ajay Wahi

This is the easiet thing to do but the most difficult to implement, because once there is data, people have to accept it and the conclusions it indicates – there is no place left to hide.

An interesting example relates to the very first company I worked with. We got associated with one of the largest tobacco companies to provide ERP implementation services for them. There, I used the data approach with great success. We were implementing a world famous ERP at the client’s firm, and due to certain reasons, the implementation was not going as smoothly as expected.

 There were issues at the client’s end, such as lack of clear communication across the organization that ERP implementation is complex, and requires dedication. This made it difficult for us to do a smooth integration, since the client’s employees seemed to expect a magic wand rather than the painstaking effort it actually was. My company had to bear the brunt of complaints as we were the integration partners.

I was invited (or rather ordered) by the client to a meeting to justify why we should continue as their ERP partner. I landed there 2 days before the meeting (without the client’s knowledge), met my project team and understood all the problems, and realized that though the client was responsible for the major problems due to inadequate and incorrect internal expectations, we too, were responsible for our share of implementation-related issues. Over those 2 days, I collected and collated data related to all the action items for the client and for us, and listed the status and quality of action taken against each item.

The next day, the meeting started with my sharing with them our areas of commitment and to what extent we had fulfilled that commitment, and their areas of commitment and the extent to which they had NOT taken appropriate action towards that commitment. At the end of the meeting, the client’s MD said, “You know where YOU are wrong, and you know where WE are wrong. But the way you presented it made it sound like you have clearly less responsibility for the project not going the way it was envisioned than we do.” He was honest enough to admit to the need for corrective action at his end, but added that we had emerged with our skins intact from the meeting only because we had the data ready.

DATA allowed us to leave that meeting with our self-respect intact else the client would have put us on the carpet with all that we had not done, while ignoring the lacunae at their end.

So now the big question is where and how to use data. The answer, simply put, is: anywhere and everywhere. While this holds true for both large and SME organsations, it is of particular value and importance for SMEs. This is because a large organisation has a historical database and event chronology on which to base decisions, but SMEs do not generally have a sufficiently long history / track record on which to base a meaningful decision.

Data is vital in meetings. Make it mandatory for participants to come prepared with data on points/issues they want to raise. This avoids the problem of ‘ALWAYS’. When anyone says someone / something is ALWAYS a problem, asking them to have data to support their statement usually diffuses the ALWAYS and brings it to a more accurate ‘SOMETIMES’. So what without data looked like a major issue now, with data, is concluded as a minor one.

Data is vital for all issues related to business, process, system, technical, design, production, vendors etc. Use data to select between 2 or more alternatives.

Apart from helping people select the correct alternative, it also takes the subjectivity out of a decision, so that even decision-making becomes a more organized process!

Let me share with you an interesting administrative problem we solved using data. Our company provides transportation to employees, and when people work late hours, to control the expense on individual cab fares, we try to group a few people (who stay close to each other) together so that they can share a cab back home. This inevitably means that someone or other has to wait till the last person to board the cab is done for the day.

Some of my employees complained that they OFTEN had to wait for more than 2 hours at a stretch since the last person to board the cab would still be working. I called for data from the Adminstration Department, and called a meeting with the complainants. One look at data, and it turned out that the OFTEN was only once every month. I shared the data with them and asked those who still had a complaint to stay in the meeting, while the rest could leave the meeting. Obviously, they all left. What might have erupted into a large issue and used up needless mental and emotional energy was defused easily. This is the magic of data!

As you see from above examples, DATA can be used anywhere and everywhere. Data can be used across all areas and departments. You can use it in Production to decide your product mix, based on the specifications (on the one hand), and market demand (on the other). You can use it in Sales to forecast future clients, revenue streams, product mixes etc., based on how well past data is maintained. You can use the data approach in Finance to choose which fund raising scheme to adopt, and so on. You can use it to monitor defects and bugs being raised on your products to understand how to improve the process /skill levels to reduce the defects etc. Throughout the book, you will find other examples of how data can be used to bring about many improvements in other areas as well.
 
Data should be relevant to the decision being taken or you may make a wrong decision.

Building a culture to capture and then analyze data would take some time as changing employee mindset is not easy.

What Is It For Me

  • Data keeps discussions and issues focused on reality leaving no scope for ambiguity.
  • It provides a visible validation for decisions, making them more objective, and therefore, acceptable. 

 

About the author

Mr. Ajay Wahi has got two and half decades of all-round exeprience in all areas of organisation functioning like general management, sales and marketing , finance, HR, software development, brand building, team work etc.

He has been working for SMEs  for the last 15 years. With all this experience , the author has managed to fast-track the growth of all the SMEs he has worked for. It is these experiences which he has put in this book: and the award for BEST SME of year goes to… Mr. Wahi shares the insights of his book in a series of columns through Small Enterprise India.com

For more details about the book and the award for BEST SME of year goes to… contact Mr Ajay Wahi at

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

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