This post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.
It’s 7:00 am in the hotel parking lot and I’m facing a 20 minute commute to the office. That leaves 10 extra minutes before my 7:30 presentation. Complicating factor number 1: the windshield is covered by a thick coat of frost. Complicating factor number 2: the car rental agency decided I didn’t need a window scraper. I didn’t have many options as I stared at my ungloved hand, a credit card, a frost encrusted windshield and listened to my watch continue to tick. I knew the commute very well and needed to improvise to arrive as expected. Have you ever been in a similar predicament? Despite your original plan, the next step includes an unexpected twist.
Isn’t it “funny” how we all encounter distractions from our plan? Whether you’re completing a product launch, a customer segmentation strategy or a new price optimization method, it seems there is always a wrinkle in your plan. In many circumstances, you may face challenges with your stakeholders, team members, incomplete data, inadequate models or insufficient time to properly train the models. In most of these situations, the mark of a strong leader isn’t their ability to personally resolve the underlying problem. Innovative leaders are known for their ability to adapt to the situation, pressures, team dynamic and think creatively to help the team resolve the issue. The following section explores various distractions from plan and recommended actions to mitigate the impact.
- Communicate quickly and honestly. Key indicators and keys to success of innovative leadership are integrity and adaptability. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the adage that bad news doesn’t age well. When facing adversity such as distractions from our plan, an unexpected or delayed outcome, deceiving the stakeholders is never an option. However, we have the ability to creatively and adaptably apply our resources to attain all or a portion of the visionary goal.
- Address leadership gaps quickly. If the distraction from your plan included a gap in your team’s skills or leadership capability, you can seek substitutes, additional resources, coaching or training. In especially challenging situations, including specialized consultants in a coaching mode can meet the short-term objective and bolster long-term capability. You can also leverage your network and personal skills to fill small gaps.
- Address data availability and integrity. If your analytic initiative is struggling with data acquisition or qualification of available data, you may need to revise your objective until the data is available, validated and qualified for use. If you drive forward with inadequate data, you risk developing inaccurate models. Since the predictive ability of the available data may have some value, another alternative is to segment the population and attempt a small pilot with highly structured A/B testing.
- Validate our analytics model. If your analytic models are evolving slower than planned, you can support your data scientists with a fresh perspective to validate the underlying descriptive statistics, foundational predictors or potentially confounded attributes. It’s especially important to ensure the models aren’t being over fit due to inadequate data or hasty elimination of valid predictors.
With all of these technical mitigations, your role as a leader is even more vital. You’ll need to ensure your communications are completely transparent, and your stakeholders are aware of the issues and mitigations. It may be necessary to remind them that the only thing worse than not implementing a predictive model is an inaccurate model that may reduce value through sub-optimization. In difficult and tense situations, your team’s resilience may crumble. Scheduling special activities or a little time away may help refresh them. It’s also vital to take care of yourself. With the extra stress and high expectations, your competing commitments may erode your performance. It’s critical to maintain your life balance and control any conflicts raised by your “inner voice”.
For the curious few seeking closure, I survived my frosty morning commute by using the defrosters to help with the windshield, minimized scraping on the side windows, skipped scraping the back window and missed seeing my favorite barista on the trip to the office. By adapting my expectations, reducing my typical commute plan and accepting a few risks, I was able to meet all of my commitments.
What adjustments are you prepared to make so you can meet your expectations?
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Photo credit: www.flick.com By: Techniker Krankenkasse