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Building a Culture of Data: Building Trust in Data

This is part 4 of a 5 part series on Building a Culture of Data.

In any organization, the willingness to use data to make decisions is directly related to whether the people trust the data. People who haven’t used data in the past will be accustomed to trusting their instincts and experience, so making data the primary input for decisions will be a big change. If you want these people to use data, you need to make sure they trust it more than their own instincts.

This can be intimidating, especially if you are the only data analyst in your organization. Luckily, there are well known best practices for earning that trust:

  • Start simple. It is better to have a few metrics that are well understood than analyzing every possible metric. Build comfort and confidence on these first few metrics and then slowly introduce more over time. This will avoid overwhelming people as well as helping you tailor the data to the needs of the organization as they arise.
  • Transparency. Always publish how metrics are calculated alongside those metrics. I don’t mean mathematical formulas (although those help); you need to explain in plain language how a metric is calculated so that anyone can read and understand. This should also include what the metric should and shouldn’t be used for.
  • Highlight wins. Whenever data is used to make a decision, make sure everyone knows how and why. This will encourage good habits and ensure that data becomes part of more decisions over time. Whenever you have evidence that data resulted in an important positive impact on the business, make sure it is well known throughout your organization.

Finally, the most important factor is education. With the growing focus on data, many people would like to use data to make decisions, but they don’t know where to start. While it can be tempting to do a company-wide training session, the reality is that meeting individually with people has much better results. Not everyone will have the same level of expertise and you want to be able to answer their questions and tailor their education individually.

This is, of course, time consuming, so you’ll need to start with leaders and work your way across the organization. If you do it right, the team will start to educate each other and pretty soon you can sit back and watch the company train itself!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to handle those times when data fails you, and how to rebuild trust after.

Quote of the Day: “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” ― Jane Austen, Jane Austen’s Letters

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