How would you describe your competence at using data to improve your decision-making? How about your organization’s competence? Using information to do something more effectively is something we think and talk a lot about at Tracking First. I’m all about leveraging information so you have a single version of truth within your team.
When I owned a tech company in the 90s, people began to approach me for help with job search and business advice. Before long I had a little side hobby, helping friends and family to get jobs, and get their businesses launched. Eventually I decided to compile the things I was telling people in a book.
By the time I had written The Illustrated Guide to Selling You, my business had morphed into primarily helping tech startups to grow. As I worked with more teams, I started to see the things that helped those companies do well — and the things that didn’t.
I discovered that communication effectiveness among teams varied dramatically — and that communication makes a big difference in a company’s ability to succeed in the startup stage. Siloed teams cause problems. Many entrepreneurs make the (incorrect) assumption that their subordinates know and understand the goals they are working toward, or they assume that the explanation for their actions and decisions will be self-evident to the team. But subordinates often don’t understand, and when they don’t it’s because the executives are not being clear or they’re hoarding information.
In the research I did on how communication helps teams, I learned that as teams share more information, the quality of their decision-making goes up. Team intelligence increases exponentially, not linearly, so that the result of better communication is far greater than the effort that goes into it.
The measurement I use to distinguish a team that communicates well is its ability to accomplish a team purpose. If the team purpose is to hit profitability, or meet a deadline, you measure success against that goal. A team is intelligent to the extent that they achieve their purpose. That success is a sign of good information sharing among team members.
If your organization has communication blocks, it will start making bad decisions, and the team becomes dysfunctional. On dysfunctional teams, good information isn’t shared. Information asymmetry results in cycles of increased information hoarding that can lead to distrust and problems. For an example within a family, imagine your teenager starts down a bad path and you don’t find out for three years. By that time, it’s possible that some of the negative effects will be lifelong. Or with a spouse, you don’t check in for a while, and you come home one day and find she’s gone. At work, you might arrive one day to find that half the team has left to start a competing company.
If you have bad data you’re going to make bad decisions. One of the things I like about Tracking First is that we give teams the ability to make good collective decisions based on data, instead of guesswork. We give marketing and analytics teams higher quality information and lay the foundation for better organizational communication and strategy.
Jack Welch has spoken convincingly about the importance of truth and trust as foundational principles of leadership. I see that playing out like this: your people need to trust you to be able to focus on real information–to get the truth from them, and to them. That’s going to increase team intelligence, which will enhance the ability to reach team objectives.
John Boyd is the Chief Operating Officer at Tracking First