Friday, 21 October 2011

The dangers of spurious data

I was reading an article the other day about how Pfizer now use computer tablets (as opposed to the usual ones they manufacture) to keep track of the conversations their representatives have with physicians. Not only is the partly due to the need to comply with all the legislation around what influence pharmaceutical companies can exert upon doctors, but is also about observing the patterns of interest among their clients.

So all well and good: it is not surprising that Pfizer is investing in clever analytics to carry out its business better.

But the thing that struck me was the senior manager talking about their strategy said (refreshingly I thought) that they were not overly concerned about precision. His view was that since the data is all about helping them manage the future, and the future is fairly fuzzy place, spending endless resources on getting numbers to three decimal points was... pointless.

Also this week, I saw a fascinating graph in the Financial Times which showed just how wrong the Monetary Policy Committee has been about its predictions for the consumer prices index (which stands at 5.2% - near a 20 year high).

All this got me to thinking about precision and spurious data. For me one of the places this often crops up is with 350 feedback tools - where people are told they have scored 3.6 on some competency against an average of 4.1. Naturally people want to know if this is significant or not - and as I know a little about stats - I have to say that I have no idea - as the full data is not there.

So, as a leader, how much spurious data are you forced to read - or indeed how much do you create?

(and yes I have left in the 350 degree feedback just to annoy you...!)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Leadership food (International Blog Action Day 2011)

OK. I have been busy! Hence no blog posts for a month. I am sorry. But I had to write something today as it's Blog Action Day 2011. The theme is food...

And as the BAD2011 website says - there is so much one can say about food: - what you like, don't like, how so many people still don't get enough of it and the huge cultural significance it plays in our societies around the world. But I want to talk about 'leadership food' instead.

By leadership food I mean the stuff that sustains us as leaders - what do leaders have to 'eat' in order to be healthy and successful leaders? Is your diet wholesome or based on comfort food?

Comfort food for a leader are models, tools, techniques - the materials that we can use to ensure we cover the issues that need to be covered when putting together our business plans (for example). These are the checklists, the researched recipes for success, the latest fad in management etc. I don't mean to be dismissive at all - we need this stuff - just as we all crave for the odd late night slice of toast with butter and Marmite (or not...!) But a diet of only these sorts of materials will create leaders that do things by rote or mimicry, in my view.

A wholesome diet includes all these tools, of course, but is also about much more. This diet  has plates of feedback, many spoonfuls of reflective practice, sandwiches filled with unanswered questions and puzzlement, a few pinches of self doubt, bowls of self exploration about where your confidence comes from (and how you can help others gain confidence too) and ladles of careful observation of your impact as a leader.

What is your diet as a leader? What is your leadership food?