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Powerful data visualisations help us tell compelling stories. In a world where capturing as much data as possible has become the next big achievement, how do we wade through the plethora of metrics to find those that tell us something meaningful, and how do we use these meaningful insights to build a data driven culture across our organisation?

As leaders, we have an opportunity to use data to empower our organisations as a whole. Sharing the big picture of our vision followed by the metrics that indicate where we are on the journey to meet it, help us encourage our people to stay accountable (though, we need to set good KPI’s for that) and problem solve more effectively in their remit. 

Earlier this month, HBR announced that “72% [of c-suite executives] said they had yet to build a data driven culture, and about half admitted they were not competing effectively on data and analytics.”

To keep feelings of imposter syndrome at bay, we need to know we’re not faking it. 

Build a data driven culture by managing feelings of imposter syndrome quote
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The true purpose of data is to bring us confidence. Confidence in the “hell yes” moves, the “hell no” moves and everything in between. 

Intelligent data visualisations and a management framework allows for the right risk vs. reward balance (unique to the organisation) is how we not only create a data driven culture, but foster data leaders at every layer. 

It is this teamwork and inherent data leadership that allows an organisation’s best asset, its people, to maintain profitability, protect market share and spot opportunities to innovate. 

So how do we do it? In three simple steps.

1. Ask staff about their challenges

My in-house days taught me that many leaders shy away from asking for candid feedback from their staff, yet I know from my own management experience, holding space for a “vent session” is sometimes exactly what’s needed to move forward. 

We’re emotional beings and sometimes, expecting us to betray our raw emotion to share “constructive only” feedback both leaves us without the full picture while lowering morale. Instead, if we’re willing to hear the raw and honest frustrations from our staff, we can bring to light all of the ways they feel held back from delivering greatness. 

This will of course, flush out the growth vs fixed mindset troops though. The wingers will only hold the organisation back and demotivate the team. The shining stars who are truly passionate about delivering outcomes will vent frustration about systems, processes and visibility that could be improved. 

We take these learnings and run a “data and systems” lens over them. 

  • Could there be processes that are falling down?  It maybe time to review our systems configuration to improve integrity of use. 
  • Are there complaints of staff who aren’t pulling their weight and who are frustrating colleagues? Well we need a clear KPI dashboard.  

If we never ask we’ll never know. 

2. Develop one key visualisation that is linked to the organisations ongoing vision or OKR’s for that year 

It’s painful for me to say it, but less truly is more in this context. Later in the piece we afford every operator their own reporting dashboard that speaks to the specific questions they need to ask, but the purpose of this one visualisation is to excite and empower the organisation as a whole

There are a number of ways to achieve this but my favourite is to focus on customer centricity. A simple set of bullet charts that illustrate performance against targets for key customer experience metrics (such as rated NPS scores across various touchpoints) might be a simple way to measure customer impact.

Depending on your organisation’s mission, you may choose to forgo the “customer” lens and instead focus directly on your mission. For example, if you have a sustainability initiative plotting % completion for each initiative demonstrates simply, how you are progressing towards those goals.

Better still, throw week on week changes to your content department and have them turn progress into a fun gif so you can remember where you started. 

Of course, your organisations use case will be entirely bespoke and depending on the story that will empower your team, the way to simply visualise it becomes an art. 

Need some further data visualisation inspiration? Here are a few great place to look:

Remember, while we don’t wish to oversimplify our mission, we do have to start the conversation somewhere. The rest of our reporting suite follows in our final step. 

3. Embed and build a data driven culture in the organisation with a data room & empower teams to contribute

Let’s address the first rebuttal I typically get right off the bat. Do you mean a physical room? Yes. Why? There are two reasons we recommend this, (1) accountability and (2) collaboration. 

We’re held accountable to our goals when the writing is quite literally, on the wall. 

We’re also more empowered to problem solve ways to achieve them faster and more effectively when we see an opportunity to work together as a team. 

It’s probably worth noting at this stage however that if there are narcissistic or autocratic management styles in the company, this can quickly become a room for blame and bullying. 

On the contrary however, managers who adopt and lead with a growth mindset, will use this room as a tool for good. Bringing light to conversations that need to be had, breaking down silos and overall, lifting staff morale in the process. 

A checklist for what to include in a data room: 

  • Company vision and values
  • OKR’s and leading team KPI’s 
  • Finance/bottom line reporting 
  • Innovation testing dashboard (live, agile style wall with post-it notes for teams to add ideas) 
  • Product performance 
  • Market opportunity 
  • Sales & marketing performance dashboard  (top of funnel customer journey with bottom of funnel operational follow through) 
  • Channel attribution dashboard 

In an ideal state, dashboards are electronic with live data feeds (think TV screens plastered around the room). If this isn’t feasible, one TV with a rotating dashboard (either updated each morning or on another cadence of the teams choosing) works or failing that, even A3 print outs of the latest static reports. 

Wherever you start, we recommend just starting. We’ve seen results from on-paper, static reports when shared in the same team building environment and often, demonstrating the improvements create a compelling case for finding budget to invest in BI.  


Are you read to build a data driven culture within your team? Want your own in-house data room? Ask us about our data literacy and leadership workshops and how we could help you embed a data driven culture of accountability and innovation in your business. We offer complimentary consultation calls and pride ourselves on pointing you in the right direction.


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