The dangers of data-led decisions in business

Data, data, data. There is so much available and generated by ever-sophisticated technology. It’s the new gold and has been for a while. Big business, such as Google, Amazon & Facebook, are huge data farms, capturing everything and producing increasingly significant predictions on how and what we are going to need, want or do next.
Last night’s airing of ‘Undercover Boss’, showed some alarming side-effects of leaders whose  businesses focus on achieving efficiency and productivity, in order to create the value gap between borrowing cost and return on investment.
It’s the human cost.
Whatever business we are in, we are in the people business. We have both customers, who are human, and employees; they are not data points, and certainly not machines.
Fair play to the episode’s boss for recognising the difficulties that some of the employees he met had. My challenge is why did it take him to go undercover to notice? And whilst addressing the specific examples in the programme, it leaves me wondering about others in similar jobs throughout the organisation who did not feature.
Culture starts and is maintained by those in an organisation and it is led from the top.
We can run healthy and sustainable businesses that have heart-led leadership; it does not mean we make ‘soft’ decisions, or sacrifice the profitability of the business to keep everyone happy. What it does mean is leading with compassion, with empathy and with people at the heart of our business.
Ask a manager if they would like highly energised and engaged employees who want to go above and beyond simply their job description, and the answer will always be yes. Well, performance matrices alone fail to motivate and engage the vast majority of people. We must look beyond the urge to further drive down immediate costs in employment contracts of the lowest paid, or having them on uncertain employment terms, as this devalues them and the contribution they make.
We are interested in supporting senior leaders in really practicing heart- led leadership; authentic leadership to build sustainable, people-focused organisations.
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Putting the Customer at the centre of everything we do

In a week that has again seen VW in the news for further irregularities with its cars’ emissions and Thomas Cook coming under heavy criticism for their handling of the deaths of two young children from carbon monoxide poisoning while on a Thomas Cook holiday, this is a good time to think about the focus of our businesses.
No one is denying that a business should make a profit, in fact without sustainable profitability; there can be no long term security of employment, confidence from potential customers that the business is strong enough to deliver goods and services, conduct research and development, honour warranties and long term commitments to contracts. However, if the primary purpose is making money and the focus of the business is solely directed towards achieving management targets and goals, there are likely to be problems ahead.
Having worked in the retail industry for a number of years, I can’t help bringing another example into the debate, that of Tesco. For well over a decade, the march of this retail giant seemed unstoppable. First they developed the very large out of town sites with thousands of additional lines, bigger pack sizes & expanded non-food sales, then came the in-fill stores, lots of them mainly on former petrol stations and then closed pubs, efficient merchandising and self-serve checkouts. The foreign operations were expanded and eventually the lure of the US became a jewel to have in the crown. All good, I hear many saying, but then why did the customer leave them in droves, why did they become a ‘Marmite’ company? Like the two other examples earlier, could it be because they became too wrapped up in what was best for them and that their focus had been on the achievement of the goals which they had set themselves and not serving the customer! They stopped putting the customer at the centre of everything that they do? The desire to be bigger better, more successful became the culture.

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