2020 has brought an onslaught of changes for all of us. As analytics professionals, many of us have experienced changes within our teams or companies. Though this comes with a host of challenges, it’s also an opportunity to “create a new normal.”
Defining and rallying support for a vision of success for yourself and your team can help to not only invigorate your team and partners today, but it can also help to sustain momentum, celebrate wins, and structure learnings as you move forward.
Though your intrinsic motivation and definition of success should be the foundation of your vision, it’s critical that your vision is exciting and compelling for those you work with or who are impacted by your work. As such, I recommend the following iterative process for co-creating an exciting, empowering vision.
Conduct 1:1 Interviews
Interview leadership, stakeholders, customer groups, partner teams, and colleagues within your organization. Draft the questions ahead of time and use a similar set of questions across the groups. Find out what’s working and what could be better. What do people want vs. need? What challenges do they face that you can help with? What challenges do they think your team faces that you need to unblock? Your goal isn’t just to gather information, but also to build a relationship and, over time, trust. You should hardly speak except to ask questions. You’re not sharing your views or driving alignment yet; you will have a much easier time doing so later if you can get information and help people feel heard in these 1:1 conversations.
Reflect on Conversations
Make time to reflect on themes and areas of tension that you are hearing in these conversations as you have them. Journaling is a great way to do this. Consider blocking time immediately following each conversation to do so rather than taking copious notes during the interviews, as this will help you focus your live time with others on actively listening to what they have to say.
Make a Dream Vision
Begin a dream version of your vision. Though it might sound a little cheesy, having a vision statement that reflects the story you dream of telling about your team a year from now can be extremely compelling. What do you want the different groups you interviewed to say about your team a year from now? What work output do you hope the team has created or enabled? What business impact did that unlock? Though you may not put it in a document to be as broadly shared, think about the ideal structure of the team that you’d have in place a year from now. Try to free yourself from the constraints of reality for this first draft.
Compare Dream to Reality
Reflect on the gaps between your dream vision and the current reality, and use this to inform follow-up conversations with your interviewees. Why do you think the team isn’t there today? What got in their way? What has been tried before? What can you learn from that? It’s often helpful to start drafting a high-level roadmap with both “quick wins” and ideal milestones for longer-term projects at this stage if you haven’t already.
Revise and Share
Revise your vision draft and begin to share it with some trusted advisors for feedback. You can combine this with the previous step if needed. Make sure to include at least one member of each group (e.g. leadership, stakeholders or customers, partner teams, and your own team). Note that I’ve found that many people share more nuanced and interesting feedback face to face in a one-on-one than they may in writing or in a group setting. Think about where something you heard from each stakeholder interview is addressed in the document and how each person may receive it. Compare and contrast actual responses to what you anticipated as you reflect.
Publish and Ask for Feedback
Edit based on feedback and publish to a wider group with a request for feedback. Ask people for general feedback, and be specific with key individuals as to what resonates most with them, what surprised them, etc. At this point, you can still revise your vision, though most feedback is likely to inform expectations and roadmaps vs. dramatic edits to your vision. Remember that you have the role that you do because someone believes in you and your success. Hopefully that individual has been a valuable coach, mentor, and cheerleader for you throughout this process!
Make It Happen
It’s often helpful to focus on “quick wins” to build momentum, learnings, and trust. For long-term efforts, consider spinning up working groups with sufficient structure to enable accountability.
This journey is never finished. The context around us shifts all the time even in “normal” times, and we obviously are living in extraordinary times now. As such, you must constantly work to reconfirm alignment around success and critically assess whether those approaches to enable your team and business are working. Determine which approaches no longer serve your organization. The relationships and trust you built through the process above hopefully have set you up to receive good feedback, but it’s up to you to make good use of it and to continue to build that trust by acting on it.
About the Author
Jessica leads Analytics and Data Science for Betterment. She brings over 15 years of analytics experience across product, business, and marketing roles. Thanks to a combination of in-house and agency experience, Jessica has had the opportunity to drive results for tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Intuit, and HP as well as top retail, travel, pharmaceutical, and financial services brands. She’s also taught Data Analytics for General Assembly, and holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington and a BA from Dartmouth College. In her free time, Jessica enjoys endurance sports, cooking, reading, and trying to not kill plants in her container garden.