The Data Will Set You Free

By Adam Witty

When growing a business, relying on gut and instinct doesn’t measure up. It’s time to let your data do the heavy lifting.

Advantage is in business to help our authors share their Stories, Passion, and Knowledge to help others Learn & Grow™. I have always believed that the right book, in the right person’s hands, at the right time can change that person’s life forever. That is one of the big reasons we do what we do at Advantage—and why I feel so good at the end of each day. I want to share another book that has changed my life and the life of Advantage.

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company chronicles the decisions that a new CEO, made during the depths of the financial crisis and recession that allowed Ford to be the only US carmaker to forgo a government bailout. Mulally’s tenure at Ford has been nothing short of heroic, putting Ford on a sustainable path to profitable growth and creating a line-up of vehicles that are outselling domestic and international competition.

Highlighted throughout the book is Mulally’s rigid insistence on using data, not gut or subjective feelings, to make all decisions. Mulally did this by instituting a weekly Business Plan Review as soon as he arrived at Ford. Each week the executive team would meet in-person to examine the company’s progress against its strategic plan and goals, and immediately make adjustments necessary to get back on plan.

The plan’s goals would be displayed in blue bars, while the actual results for each period would be plotted as a red diamond. The status of every program or project would be displayed as a colored box: green for those on-track or ahead of schedule, yellow for those with potential issues or concerns, and red for those off-schedule or off-plan. Any change in status would be reflected by a two-color box divided by a diagonal line – the top color showing the previous week’s status, the bottom color showing what it is now.

Anything that had changed from the previous week would be highlighted. The weekly meeting was a review of results vs. goals. Because everyone was looking at the same data simultaneously, there was no confusion or mystification. Each department leader presented their results, and if they were embellishing, they were immediately called out. This Business Plan Review created a level of transparency and visibility never before seen at Ford, and created a collaborative working environment that kept everyone singularly focused on what mattered.

Before you contest “this won’t work in my business,” I’ll make you eat those words. I was so inspired by the book I instituted the weekly Business Plan Review at Advantage. Over the past seven years, I largely managed the growth of Advantage by gut. To get to the next level, decisions must be based on data. How is it working? During the first eight weeks of implementation, Advantage had the best January and February in company history—top line, bottom line, and productivity. We continue to see success with our biweekly meetings during which we review department goals, update project statuses and brainstorm.

If you are interested in doing this in your company, drop me a line and I’ll e-mail you the simple Business Plan Review template we use. As Mulally says, the data will set you free!

Source:: CEO Corner: The Data Will Set You Free