4 Ways Analytics Can Actually Inspire Your Team

Last Updated Apr 23, 2010 7:15 AM EDT

Two of the biggest complaints remote workers have are 1) the compiling of mindless reports and data that suck up time from their "real work", and 2) not feeling connected to the day-to-day workings of the team or organization as a whole. One solution to both these gripes is to make better use of your analytics.

Analytics, as defined in the book Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results, is the gathering and systematic analysis of data -- which basically means making sense of all those reports you as a leader have been asked to demand from your team.

Here are four ways to turn that "busy work" into valuable learning moments and information that can make your team more productive and efficient:

  1. Communicate the reason for gathering the information in the first place. As the link between your team and the rest of the organization, your job is to help create context for their work. Who is going to use this information? How will they use it? Give an example of where it's helped someone in the company. Of course, if you can't do that, you need to ask some questions yourself before sternly demanding that TPS Report.
  2. Ask them what the numbers mean to them. As Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living," and the unexamined task quickly becomes rote and mindless. Next time you're asked for an accounting of time on a project, for example, try asking your team, "What surprised you most about what you were spending time on?" "What was the biggest time waster on this project?" is a great question to ask during one-on-ones. (Don't be surprised if they tell you it was compiling the report on how they spent their time.) You'll be amazed at the insight your team will give you.
  3. Let the quants on your team shine. I don't want to generalize, but often the most insightful, analytical people on your team are also the quietest or the ones who don't tend to dominate conference calls. If someone has shared an insight with you privately, make sure the whole team benefits from their wisdom. Great teams are built on knowing each other's strengths.
  4. Use your tools to share the data. Let's face it, some of us love numbers and some of us don't. (Just an example: the very word "spreadsheet" can give me a rash.) Some of the folks on your team will not care a whit for all this data, others will love it and want to dive in. When you get analytics from the company, post them where people can get them on demand and read it when they have time. Simply emailing it to the team will inspire them to delete it unread.
  5. If you've asked for it, share it. If you've asked them to invest their precious time gathering information, you owe it to them to share the results of their hard work. A typical outcome of seeing the bigger picture is someone will realize there is redundancy in the process. "Oh, you're doing that too?" This is a great tool for examining your processes.
Here's another benefit of sharing analytics: if you can't justify it, explain how it's used, or measure anything useful from it, you probably don't need it.

photo by flickr user sarcoptiform CC 2.0