Data driven management

Using data to manage your staff

If you’re a manager, you’re probably sensing that the world gets a little faster every day, and the degree of uncertainty is accelerating. The techniques and tools you’re using to manage your people can barely keep up with the challenges you’re now facing. The sad part according to the authors “is that we’ve solved this challenge in the consumer world. Amazon, for example, has developed an entire toolbox of clever ways to learn about you, adapt to your preferences, and separate you from your hard-earned dough.

Why haven’t we applied these learnings to the world of work?

And that is the big questions that “The Decoded Company” poses. They argue that “one of the biggest misconceptions about data-driven decision-making is the idea that it’s far removed from your industry or role. Many people think of data as something technical that only accountants, warehouses, data scientists, or the latest slew of tech start-ups need to worry about. They don’t recognize the strategic connection between information collection and decision-making.”All of the authors hail from the digital marketing agency “Klick Health”, so you could say that they have some skin in the game. While there may be some self-serving bias in evidence it’s important not to confuse the message with the messenger.


They ask the almost rhetorical questions “How do you take decades of enterprise software design that is stubbornly based on enforcing business rules and transform it into an intelligent, dynamic, performance-enhancing agent of success” -you probably already know that the answer lies in data. As consumers, we intuitively understand the benefits of being decoded

  • “Google amazes us by generating answers before we’ve even finished asking a question.
  • Facebook curates our uniquely individual news feeds.
  • Spotify and Netflix use learning algorithms to customize our experience.
  • At home, we choose companies that have figured out how to personalize our news, shopping, entertainment, travel, and learning needs.
  • At most workplaces, it’s still one-size-fits-all policies, processes, and tools. Yet companies like Google, Starbucks, and Whole Foods have turned their algorithms inward to decode their talent.”

Three ideas

Their goal is not to get the better of their talent, but to empower the best from their people. “The Decoded Company” tries to distil how this process works into three transformative ideas:

  1. Technology can be a coach, personalizing processes to the individual based on experience and offering training interventions precisely at the teachable moment.
  2. Data can be the sixth sense, codifying organizational battle scars using actual code that watches your blind spots and gives your people a decision-making superpower.
  3.  Engineered Ecosystems will prevail over hierarchies, reducing bureaucracy, increasing transparency, and be wildly inspiring to teams.


Game developers have a tool that allows them to use a player’s data to customize an environment that is optimized for his or her skills. It’s called dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA). It analyses the way a player moves through the game, the amount of time it takes to complete a level, the difficulty they are having with a particular element, and even their in-game interactions. Then it uses that information to ensure that the player is adequately challenged by the demands of the game and entertained by the narrative of the story.”

Ambient data

In the workplace, ambient data can help employers in a similar fashion. Collected data will show an employee’s progression as they become more familiar with certain aspects of their job. As their rate of completion and the quality of their work increases, algorithms can alert managers that they require additional challenges. In the same way that our informed intuition helps us minimize risks by highlighting potential issues in projects before they happen, this type of information can alert us to the risk that an employee might be bored or under-challenged, signalling us to address their needs before they start looking for another job.”

Three trends

To truly understand the Decoded principles, the authors have identified three trends

  1. informed intuition
  2. personalise everything
  3. the connected enterprise

These have laid the authors say “a groundwork necessary for the model to become possible. They are a combination of emerging online norms, increases in mobile and Web penetration, and the availability of an abundance of data that has changed the way consumers interact with organisations.”


The authors say the benefits of decoding your organisation include:

  • increased agility and speed
  • evidence-based decision-making
  • decreased bureaucracy
  • the ability to predict problems before they occur

By creatively applying technology and data analysis to all of your internal processes you’ll be able to understand and optimise systematically.
Decoding delivers personalised training at the precise moment that it’s required, resulting in increased consistency and performance in everything your organization does.

High engagement

The true advantage of decoding your company is for it to become a centre of gravity, attracting and retaining the best talent your industry has to offer and unlocking crazy-high engagement from them.

  • What if we understood our talent better than we understand our customers?
  • What if we learned to decode the real story that is embedded in the data trail that follows every person in our company and every project they work on?
  • What if we put its messages to use—not to get the better of our talent but to empower the best from them, to make their jobs better, and to improve the performance of our whole organisation?

It’s already happening all around us

  • As recounted in the book and the movie Moneyball, for example, baseball general manager Billy Beane used sabermetrics, a form of data-driven analytics, to lead the undervalued Oakland Athletics to a playoff series victory in the American League Division Series in 2006.
  • In 2007, Tom Davenport published Competing on Analytics, which explained how companies like Amazon, Barclay’s, and Capital One were using sophisticated statistical analysis to understand their customers and make better decisions.
  • In 2008, United Parcel Service (UPS), a 105-year-old company, rolled out its algorithm-powered juggernaut, ORION, to help it’s fleet drivers reduce their carbon footprint by optimizing their daily routes.
  • By 2010, authors like Tim Ferris were really hitting their stride in showing us how we could use data to hack our own bodies.”

Data as a sixth sense

It is all about using the data-rich environment that surrounds us to inform our intuition and make better decisions. In other words, it’s about using data as a sixth sense. The authors say and here’s the plug; “we’ll teach you how to instrument your team or organization to capture ambient data and then to analyse it to identify patterns of behaviour that can help you predict outcomes”.

They give a compelling example

Take, for example, the best World War II pilot in a Bell P-59 Airacomet, the first jet fighter flown by the United States, and pit him against an average modern pilot in an F-22 Raptor: The World War II pilot loses every time. Aside from differences in speed, manoeuvrability, and weapons, the Raptor augments the pilot with a heads-up display that feeds real-time data and situational awareness to him. He can make smarter decisions much faster and handle situations that his colleagues from seventy years ago couldn’t even dream of. This is one of the tightest man-machine bonds and an excellent example of the power of informed intuition. Now consider that the vast majority of the management practices we use today predate World War II. Our technology has advanced at least as much as the differences between the P-59 and the F-22, and yet our approach to arming our people with data has trailed behind.

Informed intuition is the heads-up display that can give you—and your people—that edge.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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