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The Executive Crapometer vs. Predictive Data

On June 21, 2018, in HRExaminer, by John Sumser

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“”Decisions are now open to a level of second-guessing that was once considered mutinous. Crap detection and critical thinking skills are the survival techniques of the 21st century.” – John Sumser

Crap detection and critical thinking skills are the survival techniques of the 21st century.

Figuring out how to navigate the C Level’s vision while moving the status quo forward is at the heart of the HR conundrum. It’s structural. The executive level sketches the outline; the tactical level fills in the detail. The leadership points the way; the working level herds the cats. While HR may have some input to the vision, its fundamental role is to help move things forward (and lubricate the sticky spots).

So, what do you do if the vision is flawed? How do you (like the child who notices the emperor is naked) let the upper level know? How long do you persist? What are your options when you fail?

Each component of the executive team bears this responsibility. It might even be the case that this is what executive work is all about. In easy situations, it’s polishing the vision to remove mild imperfections. When things are good, each player brings specialized information to the work of building a coherent view that can be delivered.

When the vision is running off the rails, things are different. The work shifts from boot polishing to preservation of the business, the executive team becomes a world where conflict is at the heart of decision making. The very skills that make incremental nuance improvement successful fail in the face of problems like disruption, shortage, obsolescence, shifting demographics, and changing business models. The skills required for data driven agile management are the opposite of harmonic collaboration.

We’re at the beginnings of a new way of managing using real time information and taking our first steps with predictive data. Inevitably, there will be clashes betweeen signals, opinion, and style. 20th Century executive decision making involved lurching forward based on data reinforced gut hunches. Since there was no feedback loop (i.e. was the decision useful or effective?), executive decision making had the air of papal infallibility. The aforementioned vision polishing was the standard operating method.

Even in times of crisis.

Today, and even more in the days and years to come, piloting an organization is going to require parsing, understanding, evaluating, using and/or rejecting decision making data. The uncomfortable part of this transition is that decisions are now open to a level of second guessing that was once considered mutinous. The gut hunch at the top level is giving way to a more detailed (and public) analysis of the data.

That means that the question of whether the data is right and whether it is about the right stuff is a primary issue.

 

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