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January 16th, 2017 Comments

Tips For Becoming a Data Driven Leader

In a world that has become increasingly data driven, performance management is one part of the enterprise that has fallen behind. Tomorrow’s leaders need to use performance management systems that are powered by data and use data as a driving factor in decision-making. One group of professionals who should be using their data but typically do not are software engineers. Sales managers, marketing managers, customer support managers all use data to help guide and coach their teams. Why don’t software engineering managers? Because up until this point, it has been hard for software engineering managers to get relevant data easily and in real time. We’ve set out to change that.


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With the launch of the Insights, Feedback and Improvement feedback loop last week, we believe that we’re just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to providing software engineering managers the insight and intelligent analysis of their team to be data driven, actionable leaders.

Here are some tips for becoming a data driven leader Use data!

The New York Times referenced a study done of 179 large companies across the United States that found those who were “adopting ‘data driven decision making’ achieved productivity gains that were 5 percent to 6 percent higher than other factors could explain.” Although it’s clear from this study that utilizing data-driven decision making practices increases productivity, data is just the starting point for performance improvement. Optimization requires feedback, conversation and collaboration. But before you can give feedback or improve based on data, you need to get the data, which isn’t always easy. The more data you have, the better informed your decisions can be. Not only that, data is more powerful the closer it is to real time. However, more data can also mean more noise. Data driven leaders need to build or use systems that can collect larges amounts of data, parse the data quickly and present it to them as close to real time as possible.

Communicate frequently

According to Victor Lipman, one of the main fundamentals of effective management is communicating regularly with your team by providing meaningful feedback and praise in real time.

A recent Harvard Business Review study revealed that employees actually want constructive feedback more than praise as it’s “essential to their career development”, but most leaders don’t feel comfortable giving it. By using real data to form your corrective feedback, the conversation becomes more objective and less personal or critical. When you are getting data and analysis in real-time, you can address issues and give praise immediately.

Set measurable objectives

In her blog, Kate Matsudaira talks about the value of not only setting goals, but also evaluating and adjusting them frequently. When you have the visibility as a manager into real-time data generated by each member of your team, you can set more relevant and measurable goals within the context of the actual work being done.

The even greater value in getting real-time data and insights as a manager is that you can evaluate performance instantaneously and therefore adjust objectives in real time to ensure your people continue to move in the right direction. For example, if you set a goal for at least 20 commits per week, and your team is knocking out 50 commits per week, you can quickly see this and increase your goal.

Know how to get problems solved

Effective managers know how to get problems solved and take action to do so. By having the data output from your teams work and the understanding of how their processes are performing, you can better identify pain points or issues in the development workflow. By knowing what the sticking points are for your team members, you can help better address and solve issues.

Data also helps you measure change. You as a manager are not perfect and sometimes suggestions you make or things you try may not make an impact on the teams or individuals performance. In fact, some changes may actually hurt performance. Through the use of data you can get an understanding of how the changes are actually impacting the team. Managers who use data can iterate their processes quickly and achieve a state of “kaizen” or continuous improvement for good.

In today’s world, communication is instantaneous. As managers, we need to be able to keep up with the speed of communication by providing instantaneous analysis and feedback and rapid improvement. Data driven leadership is all about gaining insight into your teams performance, enabling transparency, collaboration and feedback within the context of your team’s real data and finally continuously improving.

What do you think it takes to be a data driven leader? Leave a comment below, we would love to hear your thoughts!


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