Don't Try to Win Them Over

Data and AI professionals have to navigate the treacherous politics of the work environment on a daily basis. My new book, Data, Strategy, Culture & Power, was written to help you see those forces around you so you can respond more effectively. But there are times I wish I’d known what I know now, and could apply it to working with business execs – like in this personal story where Greg Satell’s wisdom from Cascades could have saved me two months, a lot of agony, and about $150K.

Several years ago, I was working with the VP of E-Commerce at a multi-billion dollar Consumer Goods company… an org solidly in the Fortune 500. Like most companies of that size, their data was a mess, but there was a major new product release coming up and the executive team really needed some solid KPIs to guide their decision making.

My job was to help them figure out how to get there.

After a 6-week deep dive with a team of 5 people, we figured out the quickest...

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The Key to Engagement is Narrative

Customer engagement, employee engagement, and supplier engagement are hot topics in quality management. We know that engagement (which is marked by rich interaction and involvement) is different than participation (just showing up). In the quality domain we don't typically distinguish between active participation and being a spectator.

Consumers can either participate or be engaged; prosumers are always engaged.

The key to achieving engagement is to develop a narrative. A hero's journey with one role specifically less defined, waiting for someone to step into its import, and in doing so - fulfill a slice of their own destiny. Companies like Storied exist specifically to help you craft a narrative - to sell a product, build a following, or start a movement.

As explained by novelist Justine Musk, engagement (from the perspective of how the concept can be used to become a better blogger) is this:

John Hagel makes the distinction between story and narrative.

1. Stories are...

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Bad Metrics

It's one of the two times each year where people are dusting off their strategic plans, hosting their parties and strategy workshops, and making sure the KPIs and metrics on their scorecards are the ones they want to be watching in the next period.

But most people really aren't that religious about measurement systems, or tightly aligning specific actions with the needle they are most likely to move. The goal of "becoming data-driven" usually isn't accompanied by the discipline and perseverance to make it happen, even though the payoffs are huge.

And none of us are immune to bad metrics. Sometimes, a metric is just too emotionally enticing to give up.

I use one bad metric myself, and no matter how bad I know it is, I keep using it to evaluate (one dimension of) my personal value. PSA: It is never good to tie your worth as a human to a metric (any metric). Gen Z may have more luck than us Gen Xers on this one.

My bad metric, the one I can't emotionally detach from, is number...

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The Achilles Heel of Customer Journey Mapping

Achilles was that guy in Greek mythology whose mother, when he was born, wanted to protect him soooo much that she held him by the heel and dipped him in the power-giving waters of the River Styx -- making him bullet proof (and much more; no bullets then), except at the heel, because for some reason she didn't think about just dunking him a few inches deeper. Maybe she didn't want to get her hand wet? Who knows. (In the research literature this is called perverse unintended consequences -- it happens in business too. You try to make an improvement or protect against a particular hazard and oops, you made it worse.)


Customer Journey Maps (CJM)

I've been reading a lot about the Customer Journey Maps (CJM) technique used in marketing (see Folstad & Kvale (2018) for a fantastic and comprehensive review). It formalizes the very good suggestion that when you're trying to figure out how to engage with prospects, you should put yourself in their shoes. Empathize with...

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