October 19, 2009

Touching Data

Posted in Business tagged , , , , , , , at 11:06 pm by lindaslongview

Someone once told me that the most powerful person in an organization is the receptionist.  Although it may not be entirely true, there is a kernel of wisdom in that advice, because the receptionist touches everyone that comes through the door of a business.  The process of touching allows the receptionist to develop a sense of order about vendors, staff, and clients, allowing her to come to understand the underlying structure of the organization and be able to successfully assess and courteously triage access to executives and other staff.

TouchDataArtI recently ran across a director-level staff person not yet ready to relinquish known workarounds and seize the opportunity to transform his work by touching data flows (such as cleaning up a client database).  The rationalizations were typical, “I’m too busy” and “Maybe we could hire someone else to do that?,” failing to recognize the long-term benefits of gathering information oneself and understand the underlying limitations.

I was saddened by emphasis on the short-term urgencies and the limited investment in the important (long-term) that I observed, but this was a case where I did not actually have any influence.  Because I care about the organization, I asked too many questions, so my advice to self is to stop asking such questions, but I digress…

When I look at situations like this one, I recognize that organic learning is often required, because organizations tend to grow organically – they fail to document along the way, they fail to create processes for review and archiving (until it is a crisis), and they allow single person specialists to emerge (that can leave with the organizational history).   Yet it is important (and tedious) to gather, consolidate, or validate information when trying to move an organization to an improved future.  The hard news is that such work often requires tedium and/or assimilating the unknown.  The good news is that the most valued people in every organization are the people who learn, think, and transform by doing this.  As such, my long view advice:

  • Seize the opportunity to touch key data flows and learn the limitations of the current system.
  • Spend time on the important (learn, think, transform) even when your schedule is filled with urgencies.
  • Do not be above tediousness; participate in the tedium and gain appreciation for the efforts of others who complete tedious work regularly.

Are you touching important data flows, learning from them, and creating transformation?