Data-Driven Decision Making 101: How to Empower Your Management Team to Make the Best Decision

Data-Driven Decision Making 101: How to Empower Your Management Team to Make the Best Decision

By now, organizations are deep in their annual planning process, engaging in healthy debates around priorities and formulating strategic goals for 2021. Inevitably, a big part of this process is decision making, whether it’s shared, distributed, or just plain siloed (we don’t recommend the latter). Most organizations are leveraging their current data and performance metrics as the basis for their decision making, but the key to making the best decisions, those grounded in data and fact, on how to move the business forward is empowering your leaders and managers.  

How do you empower your management team to make the best decision? Here are a few ways to get started: 

Create and Enforce KPIs Across Your Organization 

For organizations currently lacking a level set of KPIs, you likely sense everyone is moving in a different direction. The benefits of setting KPIs are two-fold: you identify the leading indicators that drive the business forward from a data-driven perspective and a consistent, and broadly shared, set of KPIs serves as a grounding function for everyone within the organization. When leaders and managers have a voice in setting these and feel empowered to drive towards them, organizations often witness the difficult to achieve phenomenon of everyone rowing in the same direction. When leaders are empowered and feel ownership in the creation of the KPIs, this can have a trickledown effect when it comes to enforcing them. The result is decision making that isn’t based on gut feel alone but leans on the data your teams are generating every day to inform decisions. 

Operate from a Single Source of Truth 

We speak with many organizations who are currently operating their teams, or the organization, with a slate of individually created, manually updated, sometimes technically complex series of spreadsheets. For startups, this is often the easiest and best way to begin tracking your KPIs and other performance metrics. However, what we’ve seen time and again is the tipping point where spreadsheets become too complex, too cumbersome, and flat out just too much work to maintain and update on a regular cadence.  

Whether it’s your CRM, a BI tool, or, even better, a people intelligence tool such as, at that tipping point, you must consolidate your data in a manageable and easily accessible way in order to operate from a single source of truth. In doing this, you drive transparency across the organization with regards to what individual teams are working on, maintain an active pulse on KPI achievement, and, in the case of a people intelligence tool, the overall health of your team on the path to success. Additionally, a single source of truth can empower your management team to make forward-looking decisions by reducing their time sifting through data and giving them more time back in their day to understand the next best course of action. 

Train Your Team to Access and Understand the Data 

Regardless if it is before or after you’ve set your KPIs and are operating from a single source of truth, it is imperative to train and empower the appropriate individuals on your team in how to access and understand the data being generated by the various teams. A data dictionary can aid in this process, so everyone is speaking a common language. Invest time in walking your management team through the various KPIs, how the KPIs were chosen, and the data that’s being pulled to inform KPI progress. With this context, your management team will be empowered to dig in and understand the context around the data and how pulling different levers impacts the KPIs both positively and negatively. 

Develop a Decision-Making Framework 

As organizations scale, decision making inevitably becomes more distributed. This is only natural as you promote and onboard new managers and leaders. An important piece of scaling successfully is developing a decision-making framework - otherwise that “best decision” philosophy gets blurry and clouded by an increasing number of opinions. This is the place where it is critical to document the key tenets that describe the way decisions are made. These key tenets are not to be confused with your core values, although those can play a key role in decision making for sure. These operating principles serve two main functions: keeping your current management team aligned and empowered during the decision-making process and training new members of management during onboarding. In the absence of a framework, the organization fails to understand exactly how decisions are made and this can lead to a lack of trust in management and usually tanks morale. 

Empowering your management team to make the best decisions possible with the data at hand takes a pattern of focused effort on infrastructure, education, and expectation setting. With the right KPIs in place, your managers will be confident in leading their teams knowing the appropriate behaviors to reinforce. An understanding of the data and an easily accessible single source of truth will allow them to better manage their team(s) in real-time and from a proactive place. Coupled with an easily understood decision-making framework, your management team will be well on their way to making thoughtful, data-driven decisions as the organization scales. 


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