July 17, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1.  Ten Questions About Your Data

In a world of Big Data, it’s important for every organization to pay attention to the information it collects, be it big data or small data, in huge data warehouses or Excel spreadsheets. Many tools are available for using databases to reach out, but efforts will flop if the data is faulty.

On his blog, consultant Randall Craig poses 10 questions to consider:

  • Who has overall responsibility for the quality of your organization’s databases?
  • Which staff member is tasked with day-to-day responsibility for the quality of data? In some organizations, they are called a data steward or a similar title.
  • Do your databases have a well-structured architecture?
  • Do key fields have a well-thought-out taxonomy or system for organizing data?
  • What processes are in place to continuously improve data quality?
  • Do you continuously collect data across the entire “journey” of a client, member or stakeholder? (That includes internal systems, real-life interactions, the web, and social media.)
  • Is the data visible to those in the organization who need to see it, with dashboards and other reports?
  • Are all email and outbound messages legally compliant?
  • Do you have a process to change implicit consent to express consent to be in the database, and then track it?
  • Is the data adequately protected from external threats, and do you also have internal rights restrictions?

“Great data drives great marketing decisions, improved conversion, and is the rocket fuel powering newer technologies such as marketing automation.  This week, strengthen this foundation by improving how you answer these 10 questions,” he writes.


2.  The Six Layers Of Knowledge

Information lies in the minds of people —colleagues, clients, advisors— as well as in databases. It requires skill to tease it out, helped by understanding six layers of knowledge that anthropologist Grant McCracken has cited:

  • What the other person knows and can offer easily.
  • What the other person knows and can report with prompting.
  • What the other person does not know they know but can reveal with prompting.
  • What the other person does not know, cannot report, and cannot reveal, but the questioner can gather from one conversation.
  • What the other person does not know, cannot report, and cannot reveal, but the questioner can gather from multiple conversations.
  • What the other person does not know, cannot report, and cannot reveal, and the questioner cannot gather without recourse to data and understanding from beyond the relationship.

In sharing that formulation on his blog, executive coach Ed Batista notes that McCracken says it’s in the final three layers —the hardest ones— that value will be uncovered.

Often that will require building a cushion of trust and safety so the person is willing to share. That may only require some small talk at the outset of a conversation, but it is essential.

If our questions don’t yield increasingly useful information, Battista advises asking better questions, which starts with avoiding queries answered with a simple yes or no and training ourselves to pose open-ended questions that advance the dialogue. He says simple, naïve questions will beat complicated queries, which are often motivated by a desire to show off how much you know.


3.  Negotiations Should Never Come Down To Price

The final discussion in a negotiation should ideally not be on price. Filip Hron and Horacio Falcao, of INSEAD, say that price is often discussed last because there is a fear of that aspect of the discussion. People lack the tools and skills to confidently discuss it and push off the inevitable.

But price is only one of the many elements involved in a negotiation, and how it is settled will affect other interests at play. So seeking a last-minute discount or concession may seem smart, but can backfire — you can’t change the price you pay without changing what you get in return.

“The moment we change the price, we instantly change how well another interest is satisfied in the negotiation ­— even those already discussed and agreed!” they write on the institution’s blog.

“Negotiators often don’t realise how their apparently successful bargaining on price is potentially reducing how well other important interests are met. Ultimately, negotiators who believe price can be negotiated by itself risk both asking for, and saying ‘yes’ to, deals that are potentially worse for them than before the discount.”


4.  Beware Of Hiding Navigation On Web Sites

Screen space is a precious commodity on mobile so the trend has been to hide the navigation under a menu, such as the three-line “hamburger” icon.

“Like a cheap fast food chain, it got designers addicted to its convenience, and now serves millions each day, both on mobile devices and on desktops,” usability experts Kara Pernice and Raluca Budiu write on the Nielsen Norman Group web site.

But it’s not effective. Their research found hidden navigation led to a 20% drop in users successfully discovering what they were seeking, on both mobile and desktops.


5.  Zingers

  • From attitude to action: Consultant Alan Weiss says the statements “I can” or “I can’t” determine subsequent behaviour. (Source: ContrarianConsulting.com)
  • Short-sighted “Simon says”: Psychologist Travis Bradberry says you can lose good people with short-sighted rules, such as the policy in many organizations that you can’t be transferred or promoted unless you have been in a position for six months. That holds people in roles they are not suited for, hurting the individual and the organization. (Source: Linkedin.com)
  • My best me for a best day: Uncertain what to do as you face a challenge? Warwick Business School doctoral candidate Jess Whittlestone suggests asking, “What would the best version of myself do right now?” (Source: Jess Whittlestone.com)
  • Quick delete: To speed up deletion of unwanted words or sentences in a Microsoft Word document, use a keyboard shortcut: hold down the Ctrl key with either the delete or backspace key. Using Ctrl+Delete deletes text one word at a time from the insertion point to the right. Similarly, Ctrl+Backspace deletes words to the left. (Source: Allen Wyatt’s WordTips)
  • Say it again, Sam: Don’t communicate anything important just once, says consultant Tim Sackett. (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Finding Competitive Edges

Question:  Any new strategy frameworks we can use at our forthcoming summer retreat?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Here’s something that might be profitable to consider: Take time to probe what opportunities for growth lie on the edges of your business.

In a recent book, Edge Strategy, consultants Alan Lewis and Dan McKone advise that if you want to reduce risk and increase your chances of growing your business you should look at these three edges:

  • Product edges: This is the most common opportunity and opens up when your product or service is not perfectly calibrated with customer needs. In such cases you can offer more or less to certain customer segments in order to better satisfy their overall requirements. iTunes was an addition on the edge of the iPod business that Apple had successfully launched. Airlines realized many customers weren’t checking baggage and so introduced a separate baggage charge to spare those travellers the cost.
  • Journey edges: Your customer uses your product or service while on a bigger journey or mission of which the purchase is but a part. Best Buy set up a technical services team, The Geek Squad, to handle the part of the customer journey after the sale of a TV or computer.
  • Enterprise edges: This is the trickiest edge and may be the least applicable. It involves an edge that uses the assets of your company in ways not foreseen when they were developed to support the core business. Many farmers, for example, are renting their land for wind and solar energy projects. Toyota’s data from tracking real-time car location and speed of its GPS-enabled vehicles is now being sold to municipal and business customers in Japan interested in traffic patterns.

And look at adjacent territories:  To some extent, this notion echoes the call a decade ago by Bain & Company consultant Chris Zook to move beyond your core into adjacent territory. That growth strategy might involve selling new products to traditional customers, edging into a new geographical area, selling through a new channel, or modifying a proven offering to enter a new customer segment.

He argued you need to check whether the two adjacent areas share or don’t share the same customers, competitors, cost structure, channels of distribution, and “singular capacity” – the brand, asset or technology that gives the core business its uniqueness.

Consider differences between the core and adjacency on each of those five dimensions, because you are taking a step away from your key strength. He found odds of success declined considerably when an adjacency moved two of more steps away from the core business’s greatest strengths.

So give some time to edges. But be cautious, since it’s trickier than it seems.

8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:  The Multiplier Effect Of Meetings

We all know our scarcest resource is time. Executives first saw voicemail quadruple the number of external communications received, and the rise of email and virtual collaboration now mean individual executives typically deal with 30,000+ communications annually!

We try to make best use of our time at a personal level, but organizations often overlook a major time sink caused by the multiplier effect of meetings.

An example:

In 2014 the Harvard Business Review (HBR) reported a Bain & Company analysis that examined the time budgets of 17 large corporations. They wondered what could be achieved if we managed time as well as we manage our financial budgets.

They found executives spent, on average, two full days every week attending meetings, and almost 80% of them were with members of their own department. From what our clients tell us, this is a common experience.

It gets worse when you look at the ripple effect. In one example, a single weekly management meeting accounted for 7,000 person-hours per year. But those managers met with their units prior to the weekly meetings — add in 20,000 more hours per year. Their teams spent 63,000 hours generating information and checking details to prepare for those meetings. Additional prep meetings involved 210,000 hours spent, for a total time sink of 300,000 hours to support the weekly executive committee meetings.

Many organizations are smaller or leaner, but the math scales quickly nonetheless. (Using HBR’s example, a half dozen managers meeting weekly for 3 hours per week and then engaging their teams in support might still suck up 38,000 hours, or about 20 FTEs, devoted to supporting those meetings!)


HBR suggests that if we manage our organization’s time as carefully as we budget our money, we could free up 20% of our time. Most tips focus on having clear priorities, avoiding creep in the number and scope of projects, and managing for efficiency.  For meetings, we’ve learned to start on time, come prepared, be clear on our purpose and end early.

What we often don’t focus on is simplifying the organizational layers between the top executives and frontline workers — layers that generate more meetings, multiply communications and slow decision-making, unnecessarily wasting the organization’s time budget.


8.  Closing Thought:

“Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.”

— Robert Anthony