Bringing the number to life is vital, whether you’re working in sales, managing a project, leading a team or running a production line.
If you understand and internalise the number, it allows you to monitor your progress and your tracking, intuitively know where you are and what you need to do, inform your decisions, understand how you need to react in real time, and see the bigger picture.
Otherwise, it’s just meaningless data to you.
Here, Paul and Rob discuss why many people are looking at the numbers but not really thinking about what they mean. They discuss the importance of bringing the number to life, and how we can do it.
What’s stopping us from bringing our number to life?
- There is too much information at our fingertips.
- Think of the wealth of reports, dashboards, BI systems and other technology that we can extract data from
- It’s too easy.
- We can easily look up the number we need at a particular point in time, and therefore we don’t need to retain the information in our head
- The desire to measure everything.
- You simply can’t retain every single piece of information put before you – which leads you back to relying on dashboards or systems
So, how do we bring the number to life?
- Keep it simple.
- If you have a wealth of data in front of you, focus on maybe the three or four core measures that really tell you something. Break down the number to give you something tangible about what you need to achieve each week/month
- Engage with the data.
- Too many people just input numbers into a system or sales platform without recognising the importance of thinking what those numbers mean. The idea of ‘cognitive disfluence’ is key here – the fact that we retain information and learn more if we actually interact with what we’re trying to learn
- Start with the goal.
- Instead of looking at the data and feeling that we have to do something with it, look instead at what you’re trying to achieve. What numbers do you need to pull out and understand to reach your goal?
- Leaders. If you’re a leader, help your people to work with the data and think what the number really means. Give them the raw information they need and ask them to compile a report about some of the core data. You could break it down and ask different people to look at particular bits of the data. Ask them: Help me understand what’s in your figures and what does that tell you? Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Why has this bit changed? What does that mean?