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Facts are Your Friends

Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? It’s hard to argue the facts in business.  Facts are facts. But some of the biggest mistakes in business happens because people don’t start with the facts.

The problem in day to day decision making, developing strategy, and making resource decisions is that people forget the facts–or worse–were never informed of the facts to begin with.

Too many decision making meetings are designed and executed poorly. The meetings become a series of people stating what they think is true, their own personal opinion, or what they wish would happen to benefit their own agenda.

I have been in meetings with other suppliers and multiple customers where people spend most of the time debating the facts.  They burn critical time because those in charge do not set the table with the facts. Facts are facts.

Business decisions must start with the facts.  For example, you should know the revenue of a project, you should know the cost, and you should know if you made money.  These are the facts and everyone should be on the same page. 

When you hear commentary that sounds like, “ well we reallydidmake money but the allocations were wrong,” or “ the cost were not really that high, they were inflated.” you know you are getting into the opinion zone, not working from facts. 

I have seen projects progress all the way up to the launch stage, and they were build on a set of assumptions, not facts. 

I have seen people deliver the results of key initiatives that were not the actual key metrics that were critical to the success of a program, but instead, simply the best thing that happen in the project.  This has happened across about every interaction I had with all customers. Somewhere along the way, people forget or ignore the facts and projects crash and burn.

When Ignoring the Facts Fails You

The most memorable example (or maybe the most forgettable!) was a time I was a part of launching a new program that was suppose to sell, let’s say, 100,000 pieces during a specific time frame. That was the key metric, 100,000 pieces over a month.

The program ended up a dog and barked all the way home.  We did not come close to selling 100,000 pieces. Did we say that? No. What we actually reported was that on 3-4 specific days that we sold more pieces than we ever had before–ever! Wasn’t that amazing? No, it was embarrassing. 

One of the customers that bought into the program told me that “one stole must equal to one sold” because he did not remember selling any of the items– even though they ended up with less than they started with. The reality is that everyone knew it was a dog and we should have just called it, owned it, and moved on.

As the leader, you should start with the facts and eventually get to a strategy.  The best leaders constantly ask,” is this on strategy?” which is another way of asking are we on the same page?  Are we basing decision on the facts and our strategy, or pulled in another direction that’s just the flavor of the week, or just another idea for the future?   This may sound like tough talk from the leader but it’s a requirement of leadership. The first question of the leader when working on a project is, “ Is this on strategy?”

The process that I have seen work the best is this:

1)       Start with the Facts

2)       Develop a set of assumptions

3)       Form a hypothesis

4)       Develop a Strategy

5)       Decide the metrics

6)       Assign dates and people to have activities complete

There are certainly more elaborate ways to do this work but it does not have to be that hard.  Keep the process simple and moving forward.

But always remember, the facts are your friends


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