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7 Ways To Make Sure Your Analytics Are Concise

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If you can’t get your data scientists and other analytics to be concise, you’ll never get anything done. To make the most effective use of your time, educate and coach your analytics on how to be concise.

As much as I love working with data scientists, this has to be the most frustrating part of my job. Analytic managers and consultants like me are responsible for getting things done; however, the very talented resources we deal with value brilliance over deadlines.

Notwithstanding their analytic disposition, everyone–including your data scientists–wants to succeed. To succeed, they’ll need to be concise: in their speech, in their writing, and even in their approach to solving difficult problems. Here are my seven best tips for making that happen.

Tip # 1: Analyze the Impact

You must do your homework before you broach the subject of concision. At the onset concision is very uncomfortable with analytics, so they’ll need to rationalize it for themselves before they unseat their de facto behavior. So when in Rome, do as the Romans. Do some research on the benefits of concision and the costs of not being concise, and prepare some analysis.

In my experience, you can double or triple your productivity, when your team effectively practices concise behaviors. You’ll need the numbers for your specific situation to make it relevant. High-level studies are interesting, but when the analysis is brought into their reality, it becomes impactful.

Tip # 2: Communicate the Need

Armed with your analysis, you must let them know what your intentions are. You can do this formally or informally, depending on the structure of your organization. I like informal–it’s better for engagement; however, do whatever you feel works best. Double- and triple-check your analysis; remember, you’re dealing with people who can spot a hole in your analysis a mile away.

This should be an engagement, not a communication. Engagement implies dialog and discussion. Listen to what they have to say: their feedback and concerns. Make them understand that you understand. If they don’t voice any concerns, they’re either not listening or not internalizing the implications of the message. Continue the dialog until they stop head-nodding and start sharing.

Tip # 3: Teach Them How

Concision is a skill that needs to be taught. Work with your team coach, Human Resources, or an external consultant to design a program that teaches concision. The facilitator should be familiar working with analytics—they are a special breed when it comes to this type of instructional design. Analytics have always been good at whatever they try to learn; you’re asking them to learn something they won’t initially be good at. It takes finesse to navigate through this human dynamic.

Tip # 4: Show Them How

Modeled behavior should follow education. Once your analytics have some guidelines to ponder, they’ll want to see it modeled in exemplars. The analytic manager on a data science team should be the paragon of concise behavior. Shorten one hour working sessions to thirty minutes and eliminate status meetings altogether. When documents are created or reviewed, focus on communicating the most amount of information in the least amount of space, with the question, point, or thesis within the first few sentences.

Tip # 5: Help Them Build

Be encouraging and supportive, not critical or condescending. Analytics are especially sensitive to skills they can’t quickly master. Give them time to grow and they’ll eventually come around. In addition to modeling concise behavior, I suggest introducing them to a well-written newspaper like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I receive regular email alerts from the Wall Street Journal. They’re usually a hundred words or less do a great job of communicating breaking news within a few seconds.

Tip # 6: Give Them Feedback

Give them positive feedback when concision is done right. They won’t do it right for some time, so here’s where you have to be very careful. Criticizing an analytic for rambling or producing a tome when a brief will suffice, is a natural tendency that should be avoided. Even when it’s in the spirit of improvement, highlighting any shortcomings should be done with care. In this situation, just ask them to produce a more concise version, and be specific. I once had a data scientist give me a 50-page PowerPoint of all words. My feedback was that it had a lot of great content, but I’d need a 2-page process visual to call it done.

Tip # 7: Give Them Kudos

When you see your analytics exhibit concise behavior, whether a brief response or a quick turnaround on a priority deliverable, make a big deal out of it. Constructive feedback should always be done in private, but exemplary behavior should be well publicized. Leaders should support analytic managers in this effort; even a handshake from a higher-up is a big deal to most people. Everyone appreciates kudos, but more importantly when analytics see their peers getting rewarded, they take notice.

Summary

Be concise, and coach your analytics to do the same–enough said.

Submitted for Publication in TechRepublic’s Big Data Analytics Blog

This is the sneak peak of my latest contribution to TechRepublic’s Big Data Analytics Blog. As editors do, when this gets published, some of the words and content may be arranged or deleted for a variety of reasons including SEO. What you’re looking at here is the uncut, unabridged, unedited version of the article that was submitted.

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John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps people and organizations achieve strategic results. His Fortune 500 clients include Hewlett Packard, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco and Visa where he managed and mobilized their enterprise data strategy, a comprehensive program of 150 projects, over 45 initiatives, and 5 major tracks. John can be found on many social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.

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Guest Tuesday, 16 October 2018