Storytelling vs. Seeing what the data says

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a session on “Data Visualization” at the ASQ Service Quality Conference in Chicago. It was of particular interest to me because I have taught classes and tried to help clients on this topic. The session was given by Robb Richardson and he did a wonderful job in what was a very short time to help the group see some excellent principles to follow in staying true to the statistical voice of the data. He demonstrated some simple techniques to maximize what Ed Tufte calls “data ink.” Robb had a simple formula that data visualization is 3S+A; statistics, science, storytelling plus aesthetics. Storytelling. I think we all intuitively understand that to visualize data, we need to address stats, science and make it look cool. But storytelling? That’s the element that too many times I see folks skip over in their race to ‘see what the data says’. What we forget is that we come to the data with a...
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Learning to Lead by Stepping Back

Last week I read The Servant as Leader by Robert Greenleaf as part of the Greenleaf Center’s Foundations Certification course, which I’m taking with my friends at Third River Partners.  In the essay, Greenleaf proposes how one can test his or her effectiveness as a servant leader with reflection upon the “Best Test."  When you are serving another person or group of people, ask yourself, "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”  - Robert Greenleaf Hearing this test of servant leadership abilities was particularly poignant for me in my role as mother.  My little guy is a joy and a blessing that I thank God for every morning.  Even so, when he wakes in the middle of the night it’s easy to lose sight of coherent thoughts and the greater goal of how to best lead my son. At about 2 months old, my baby started sleeping from 10pm - 6am most nights.  We...
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Do Profits Matter?

Do Profits Matter?  I was doing some work with another consultant, and he made the comment that only profits matter.  I took objection to that statement and shared this. Yes.  Profits matter.  But we need to realize that profits matter like breathing matters.  Profits are the oxygen that keep a company viable.  Without profits, there is no company.  It’s that simple.  But do you wake up everyday making breathing your objective for the day?  Maybe if you have pneumonia or if you woke up on the bottom of the lake, then breathing is a good objective for the day.  Similarly, if your business is ‘under water’, then having an objective to make sure your firm can “breathe" is a good call. But even in those situations, we try to breathe because we have something we want to live for.  That is what really matters. Wonderfully eloquent works by  Lencioni, Sinek , Deming and Pink have made this case over and over.  Yes, profits...
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Joy in Leadership

Last week, I was treated to listening to a key note by Shawn Achor at the #WCQI in Nashville on the Happiness Advantage.  I listened intently as I was giving a talk on Joy in Leadership in a few short hours...and I wondered if our terminology was similar.  It was.  Shawn ended his talk with a line, that, if I scribbled it correctly, was: The more we choose Joy, the more we make this world a better place to live. Fascinating.   Deming told us that over 30 years ago, and lots of folks poo-pooed that aspect of his teachings.  Deming told managers that their job, in addition to prediction, was to "enable joy in work."  Now Achor had the facts to back up just how powerful Deming's advice is. Though I loved Deming's mandate to managers, I found it hard to explain to tough minded managers.  Until a few years ago... and this is what I shared at the conference. Building on...
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What is the knack?

He has the knack for...  She has the knack for... What does it mean to have a knack?  We think of those we know that seem effortless in their ability to grasp a topic and perform at a high level.  But research tells us that no one becomes great at what they do without practice.  Performers of viola in great symphonies practice, they practice a lot actually.  No one becomes great in their field without work. So what does the knack mean to business?  I guess I should get down to business and explain some things here.  We relate having a knack with knowledge management, the tacit form.  Tacit knowledge management is often referred to as tribal knowledge, things we learn from one another that cannot be written down.  But we contend that there is another element to tribal knowledge other than a great mentor, a seed of desire to learn.  This seed is the knack.  No one will pursue learning a...
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