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Ideas to develop a data-driven leadership

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The Data Champions programme brings funders together to collaborate and learn how to grow a data culture in their organisations. In this blog, programme facilitator Dirk Slater shares insights on how to encourage leaders to work with data, and techniques for communication from the workshop on February 24, 2021. 

The ultimate goal of the Data Champions programme is to support grantmakers to improve how their organisation engages with data so they can make more data-informed and strategic decisions. An important piece of this is highlighting to leaders the value of data in day-to-day work. 

Decisions can be made based on emotion, not facts, and this is where data is important to ensure the right decision is being made. Data should be used to assess and understand the whole situation from various angles, verify the right decision and then reinforce it. Leaders, therefore, can hugely benefit from using data to make informed decisions. 

“We need to present the negative data, the data we don’t want to see, and the positive data to inform decisions.” – 360Giving Data Champion 

First, understand your leaders

In order to support leaders in their use of data, the first step is getting to understand them. Our Data Champions created profiles of their leaders and answered the following:  ‘How do they make decisions? Who or what influences their decision-making? Who do they listen to?’ 

The Data Champions recognised that their leaders had varying relationships with data. Some leaders wanted questions answered with data that wasn’t available, others didn’t want to use the data available; some of the Data Champions felt a lack of resources to work with the data needed. All had their own individual barriers and a common theme for overcoming these was perseverance and trying new ways to reframe messages or ideas. 

Communicate data to leadership

We asked the Data Champions to share their best techniques to communicate data to leaders. The discussion highlighted that often leaders are short on time. Knowing how the individual prefers to understand information will help to make the most effective use of their time, and communicate the message in their language. Here’s some of the techniques the group suggested, split into forms of presentation and techniques: 

Form

  • Dashboards which house a variety of data, such as Salesforce
  • Formal papers eg. policy papers and evidence-based reports
  • Presentations
  • Spreadsheets
  • Visuals such as infographics, charts and maps

Techniques

  • Show the data and explain the main statistics and insights. Include questions or prompts for reflection and discussion. 
  • Repeat the key messages and points. 
  • Tell a story and provide context. 
  • Get to the point and directly address the key issues
  • Show successful results from previous years
  • Short, important headlines – consolidated data
  • Where appropriate, include a big, data reveal

Gain leadership support to grow a data culture

We asked our Data Champions to share their ideas for getting senior support to grow a data culture in funding organisations. 

Demonstrate and teach

  • Demonstrate how important a collaborative process is when designing projects and highlight the value of the data that is being collected
  • Demonstrate evidence of staff efficiencies
  • Show examples of how data can inform improved decision making (eg. from other funding organisations)
  • Highlight that all staff need at least some level of ownership over data – if anyone works with any kind of information, that’s data!
  • Show risks of not using data
  • Work with individual leaders to understand how they best receive data to encourage greater buy-in. Understand what data they feel would improve the way they work. 
  • Provided leaders with data-led options so they can make data-led decisions 

“Data is a team sport. Even if some leaders and the data team are using data, if the majority of the organisation doesn’t appreciate or want to use data, then there isn’t yet a data culture.” – Aferdita Pacrami, Lloyds Bank Foundation England and Wales, and 360Giving Data Champion

Knowledge sharing and collaboration

  • Have working groups using data for specific objectives and include members from all sectors of the organisation, including Trustees
  • Share the benefits of working with data and how it can make their work easier
  • Generate ‘friendly competition’: Show how using data has supported other teams to improve their work/get noticed. Make those not using data want to get involved.
  • Ensure there is an accessible central point where the data is collected so it is not hidden away or exclusive. 
  • Have data translators who can help people use what is available & advise them

Resources

  • Be transparent about knock-on effects due to a lack of resource
  • Ask for more resources
  • Broken record technique: Start each meeting with, ‘we would love to. To do that we need…’
  • Ensure management is aware of the resources required for the full data workflow
  • Add notes to data about the quality of it as well as process of getting it to this aggregated point to show resources needed
  • Have leadership understand what goes into collating/interpreting data – it doesn’t just exist in a nice summary!

Look out for our blog about data strategies

In our next blog we will share insights from our Data Champions on how to embed data use into an organisation by discussing data strategies. For more guidance on developing a data culture, read our earlier blog on four steps to build a data culture.

 

If you have found this blog useful or have any feedback, we’d love to know! We also welcome ideas for blogs and other content from our community, to help enable better use of data for funding organisations. Drop us an email at comms@threesixtygiving.org.