Presentation matters

6 03 2011

Usually I write this on the bus, but this time I am in a departure gate where the only thing missing is our aircraft. Perhaps I have all night to write this!

Think I have had an insight about the impact of how data is presented. This is not a Tableau type thought, deeply attached as I am to Tableau and dataviz generally. This arose from the Birkman reports we use both with corporate clients and with students and young people (under our hoozyu programme).

We have a set of data relating to organisational perspectives, management styles and career roles which can be presented in one of two ways. Typically for individuals, we present it sequentially, spread over about 7 pages, the order based upon strength of your match for  each of those perspectives, styles and roles. So the individual sees a stack of information that says, “start here: this is who you are most (like)… and way down here, this is who you are least (like)”

When we are working with senior managers and looking at the same data for a team, division or even an entire oganisation, we use a different format – a spreadsheet format. The view is synoptic – you see it all in one glance – and the data is ordered according to a logical structure that reflects basic organisational constructs (such as strategy, comms, operations and so on). In other words, the structure isn’t about this individual or that individual; it is about organisations.

Now what is fascinating, but not totally surprising, is that people often struggle to get their heads around the data when it is structured around them; what does it mean that I am “most this and least that?”. But it suddenly dawned on me that whenever I show the data in the spreadsheet format, people’s eyes light up instantly, they exclaim, they engage – even when what they are looking at is their own data. Somehow, the data about ME makes more sense when I see it in a context that is bigger than (or other than) myself.

(I might add that as Frank Larkey pointed out at the last Birkman Conference, the Birkman Method is very unusual in that it does present the individual in social and organisational context; most tools do not)

So – obvious once you see it, but guess who is heading off to Chiang Mai to run a workshop with a pile of spreadsheet style reports for the individuals there. I will tweet how it goes…


Coaching isn’t Landfill

2 03 2011

It is easy to talk sometimes as if coaching can supply what isn’t there by nature. “We want to build a luxury hotel between Australia and New Zealand; we will start building and perhaps you could fill in the gaps with some coaching…” If you think that sounds funny, it is not much different from “Fred doesn’t have a managerial fibre in his body; still we are going to make him manager of this large team and perhaps you could coach him to fill in the gaps…”

That is actually just about within the realm of the do-able. We can at least teach Fred enough rules of how to manage that he won’t permanently scar every member of the team. It is much worse with perspectives, though. I can coach a person to understand what they don’t see, and how to take account of that. I can teach them some techniques to ask better questions. I can’t teach them to instinctively see the world as if they were someone else; and there are times when only the authentic perspective will cut the mustard.

So much better if we use coaching to leverage strengths. “Here’s Jayne, she is a born manager. Could you coach her to be even more effective in way she manages the individuals on her team?”

Yes, please!