According to a recent HBR article, “The biggest obstacles to creating data-based businesses aren’t technical; they’re cultural.” The author argues that injecting data into employees’ decision-making process requires a mindset shift that can be daunting to implement. The article offers some tips for companies to effectively implement a data-driven culture, summarized below.

  1. Start at the top. If you want your employees to adopt data-driven decision making, it’s important that you practice what you preach. According to the HBR piece, “Companies with strong data-driven cultures tend to have top managers who set an expectation that decisions must be anchored in data—that this is normal, not novel or exceptional.” If a senior executive makes it a common practice to communicate in terms of data, his reports will adopt a similar style and eventually this approach will cascade down throughout the entire organization.
  2. Metrics matter. The right metrics can make a world of difference in increasing a company’s data fluency and instituting a data-driven culture. What these metrics are will vary according to industry, department, and specific goal, however, keeping data top of mind when setting metrics and KPIs is essential for evolving into a data-centric organization.
  3. Don’t pigeonhole your data scientists. The HBR article states, “Data scientists are often sequestered within a company, with the result that they and business leaders know too little about each other.” Addressing this issue doesn’t just entail exposing data scientists to other facets of the business; it’s also about exposing other employees to new ways of working so that they become more familiar with quantitative topics and approaches.
  4. Basic data access is a must. If different areas of the business struggle to obtain basic data access, it’s highly unlikely that a more ambitious data-driven culture initiative will get off the ground. As a first step, companies must take stock of any existing data integration, cleansing, and management issues, and pursue additional initiatives only after these problems are addressed.
  5. The employee effect. According to the HBR piece, “It’s easy to forget the potential role of data fluency in making employees happier.” But by focusing on this potential and demonstrating how becoming more data-driven yields to time savings or reduced administrative burden, organizations can more easily gain employee buy-in on cultural change.
  6. Keep talking. Asking teams to detail how they approached a problem, any alternatives they weighed, the pros and cons to each, and, finally, why they chose the ultimate approach can lead to a deeper understanding on both sides, and also help employees at all levels to become more data fluent.

For more on the above and other tips to implement a data-driven culture, check out the HBR piece in its entirety here.