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Wayne Eckerson

Welcome to Wayne's World, my blog that illuminates the latest thinking about how to deliver insights from business data and celebrates out-of-the-box thinkers and doers in the business intelligence (BI), performance management and data warehousing (DW) fields. Tune in here if you want to keep abreast of the latest trends, techniques, and technologies in this dynamic industry.

About the author >

Wayne has been a thought leader in the business intelligence field since the early 1990s. He has conducted numerous research studies and is a noted speaker, blogger, and consultant. He is the author of two widely read books: Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business (2005, 2010) and The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders (2012).

Wayne is founder and principal consultant at Eckerson Group,a research and consulting company focused on business intelligence, analytics and big data.

Former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner once said, "I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn't just one aspect of the game--it is the game." Likewise, after 20 years of researching and consulting, I can confidently say that the key to success with business intelligence is managing cultural change.

I recently read the book "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath, and I recommend it to anyone who manages or directs a BI program. It's full of great advice for how get individuals and groups moving in new directions. To crystallize the authors' key messages (which by the way is critical to managing change), the way to get people to change habits is to appeal to their head, heart, and herd.

Appeal to the Head

Any change has to make sense to individuals and be easy to accomplish. The authors recommend establishing a goal that gives people clear direction accompanied by a few simple steps to achieve the goal. The goal motivates and the script activates.

For example, a recently deregulated Brazilian railroad company with minimal cash reserves needed to achieve financial stability quickly. To achieve the goal, the CEO established four clear rules to guide his team's immediate decisions: 1) only invest in projects that generate short-term revenue 2) apply solutions that require the least amount of upfront cash 3) a quick fix is better than a more ideal solution that takes longer to implement 4) reuse materials before you buy new ones. By "scripting the critical moves", the Brazilian company made it easy for employees to make the right decisions to restore the company to financial health.

A corollary to this maxim is to make the change process as easy as possible. For example, Amazon.com made online ordering extremely simple and quick with its "One Click" ordering. Any change initiative should strive to be as effortless and painless as that.

Appeal to the Heart

The Heath brothers say the most critical part of any change initiative is to appeal to people's emotions. Emotions, more than reason, guide our actions, attitudes and decisions. In the battle between one's head and heart (i.e. emotions, desires), the heart usually wins. As the Bible says, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."

The book describes the tale of an operations manager at a manufacturing company who wanted to reduce purchasing costs by $1 billion in five years. To implement far-reaching changes required to achieve this goal, he didn't just present a detailed cost-benefit analysis. He also collected 424 different pairs of work gloves the company had bought and tagged each with a price. He then dumped this collection on a conference room table and invited division presidents to come and examine the "glove shrine." By demonstrating the wastefulness of his company in a tactile way that executives could observe and touch first hand, the operations manager triggered a major process reengineering initiative at the company.

The corollary here is to break big projects into small tasks that are easy for people to start working on. The key to any change effort is to achieve a quick win that creates momentum and confidence.

Appeal to the Herd

The final tenet of change management is to leverage group dynamics. To an astonishing degree, humans take cues about how to behave from those around them. For example, research has shown that "obesity is contagious," the authors of "Switch" write.

A research study that was not cited in the book explains that the only surefire way to get kids to eat peas is to socialize them with kids who do. Ordering kids to eat their peas doesn't work, nor does reasoning with them about the health benefits or offering them incentives. And the research shows that what's true with children is also true with adults.

To leverage group dynamics, the authors recommend creating a reform group that exhibits the new attitudes or behavior. From a BI perspective, this might involve implementing a new technology in a single department that is receptive to it and promoting the benefits they received. It can also be done by implementing dashboards that publicize the performance of peers against metrics that represent behaviors a company wants to promote. Dashboards not only get people's competitive juices flowing, they communicate the desired behavior and show people exhibiting it.

So, remember the next time you implement a BI project, devise a change management plan that appeals to the head, heart, and herd.

Posted April 22, 2013 9:36 AM
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