Relevance Lost

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In the late 1980s I took a class in cost accounting as part of some post graduate work. The textbook for the class was called Relevance Lost.

In 1984, both the Macintosh and the IBM PC hit the market. For the first time in history, individuals had access to sophisticated computing power at their fingertips.

This was a huge paradigm shift, as those of you who remember carrying your programming punch cards to the data center to be processed will appreciate.

It didn’t take long for multiple applications using these new machines to explode. Word processing, spreadsheets, data measurement and analysis tools and many other types of programs all began hitting the market.

As data became easier to gather and analyze, it soon became obvious to many that while this was an amazing benefit, it could also become an achilles heel.

The proliferation and excessive measurement of data had the tendency to overshadow its relevance.

As relevant data became buried deeper in sheer volume, it became harder to find and extract, like a needle in a haystack.

That, in fact, was the thesis of the class text.

Fast forward almost 35 years and this problem has become exponentially worse. In fact, we are so inundated with data that it can be a significant distraction.

As leaders, focusing on relevance is our job. If we lose sight of it, our organizations drift off course and we ultimately lose impact.

Today, I’d like to share five data related questions that may help increase your focus on relevance.

One – does your technology serve you or do you serve your technology?

Having the latest tech tools is great. But, how much do you really need?

The more you have, the more maintenance it requires. If you find yourself consumed with your tech, you may become distracted from your mission.

Two – Are you majoring on the minors?

Clear measurements are vital in today’s competitive world, and the backbone of a well run organization.

But, not all measurements are important. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should.

Think through the amount of data you regularly sift through as part of your normal work week.

Many times, data that was once considered vital no longer is. Can you do some trimming without sacrificing your key organizational outputs?

Three – Who are you really measuring for?

Surveys are a powerful tool. But, many of the surveys that I receive seem more about the company than the customer.

Surveys that inform the continuous improvement of your product or service are much more valuable that surveys designed to simply prop up your reputation.

Four – How does what you measure impact your customer experience?

When you ask a customer to give you feedback, you impose upon their time.

Fundamentally, this is backwards. Customers expect to receive service from you, not provide a service to you.

Tools allowing customers to initiate feedback if desired, easily access required information, or connect with a real person will always yield more long term benefits. It’s refreshing, it’s authentic and it’s effective.

Delight your customers, and they’ll be back. And they’ll bring their friends.

Five – Do your measurements compromise any part of your product or service delivery?

This is another facet of question one. If you invest inordinate time and/or resources in your measurements, it may chip away at the quality of your actual deliverables.

As leaders, we should not hesitate to leverage these amazing tools to maximize impact.

But, maximum impact can only be achieved by a laser sharp focus on relevance.

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