The one thing no organization can live without

For organizations looking to improve their performance, there is typically no shortage of possibilities. They may choose to focus on leadership, seeking to increase the effectiveness and impact of those at the top. Or maybe they opt to look at strategy development in hopes greater clarity will yield improved results. Perhaps they turn a close eye on workforce practices to see if they can improve employee engagement. Or they may decide that the key is customer relations. Any or all of these are worthwhile – and often very effective – approaches to improve overall performance. Still, without one other element, even the best intentions in leadership, strategy, workforce engagement and customer relations will often falter.

That other element is good data. Regardless of size or industry, no organization can live long without it. After all, in the absence of good data, there is no good way to accurately gauge effectiveness of leadership, strategy, workforce engagement or customer relations efforts. Though some organizations give in to the “data is overwhelming” and “we trust our guts” temptations, organizations committed to performance improvement crave data. Far from shrinking from it, they see data as an indispensable ally and actively seek it out at every turn.

In fact, the very best organizations treat data like oxygen; they see it as essential to life, they use it to nourish everything they do, and they take steps to replenish it regularly. Some organizations even go so far as to model their data management functions on breathing, with distinct activities associated with data inhalation, utilization and exhalation.

For example, data acquisition is akin to inhaling. An organization takes in information, the quality of which determines its usefulness. Generally speaking, more data is always preferable to less, provided the data is of good quality. Once acquired, the data must be utilized in order to be valuable, just like a body must use oxygen to survive. Data utilization often takes the form of dissemination, analysis and integration. This is the point at which an organization transforms data into actionable information. Finally, the strategic planning and performance improvements that can result from information utilization are like exhaling; they are proof that the original data has been put to good use. And, in best case scenarios, the process soon repeats itself with another round of data inhalation, utilization and exhalation, putting the “continuous” in continuous improvement.

If you think of data as oxygen, are there times during your workday when you feel like you have plenty of data, enabling you to breathe easy? Are there times when you wish you had a bit more organizational oxygen? Or are there moments when you find yourself gasping for air?

The best organizations believe firmly that no employee should fail for lack of organizational oxygen. Beyond simply collecting and storing data, the best of the best make data sharing an absolute priority. In many cases, this is facilitated through consolidation and centralization of the collecting and reporting functions. Having a single data repository and dedicated personnel resources around data acquisition, analysis and management allows these organizations to drive greater alignment. It also enables them to create reporting and provide dashboards that enhance efforts in leadership, strategy, workforce engagement and customer relations.

All of which feels very much like a breath of fresh air.

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