The power of data (or, why I love metrics)

May 2021

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Data is a powerful thing. You can capture as much of it as you can store. Record every inch of productivity, log each step you take and the hours you slept (or didn’t sleep). But unless you’re leveraging data to really understand the story behind it, insights can be reduced to a series of numbers or metrics as opposed to something that can be leveraged to deliver genuine business impact.

Data has the power to influence policy, improve service delivery, guide strategy, unlock an otherwise hidden trend and even help shift behaviour. While talking about data can invoke images of people scrolling through endless code, invite questions around how to pronounce the word itself, or induce a an irrational fear of charts, capturing data can be as simple as taking a survey of a group of employees before tracking shifts over a period of time.

Here are 4 reasons I love working with data to drive change:

  • It fosters transparency and ownership

At KWM we are transforming the way we work to create efficiencies and improve delivery for our clients. Part of that process is a commitment to continual measurement of adoption and proficiency of LegalTech, sentiment, and confidence in applying tools to matters. We deeply analyse our data before sharing metrics across a range of channels, critically, making the insights and progress available firm-wide. We took the decision to do so because we believe that sharing data drives a culture of transparency and creates a sense of shared ownership. People are extrinsically motivated – if you know that you only took 400 steps today, you might be more motivated to take more tomorrow (or even go for a run) in order to be rewarded with a closed ring or an uplifted step count. And if you can see the value of trying new ways of working measured through data, you might set yourself a stretch goal to become increasingly digitally literate. Sharing information creates peer comparison and accountability, which in turn motivates delivery. Win, win, win.

  • You can use data to create meaningful stories

“Data are just summaries of thousands of stories – tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.”

Chip & Dan Heath

At KWM we don’t just share our real-time and collected data as part of our approach to communication and engagement, we celebrate it. By incorporating rich insights that hero our people’s dare to try mindsets, we are looking to create lasting culture change and inspire people to explore new ways of working. Data points serve as a demonstration of delivery or impact – without which stories can be less likely to engage an audience. These stories can be in the form of a written or video testimonial, case study, formal presentation or even infographic. Regardless of the format, we incorporate meaningful insights (derived from data) to bring them to life.

  • Data shines a light on what’s working (and what’s not)

Continually measuring factors like awareness, adoption and proficiency is key when it comes to implementing a multi-year transformation programme. At KWM we’re delivering enterprise-wide change over a number of years via a series of connected initiatives. Without data it can be challenging to see shifts in mindset and capability in the short term. Data is critical to understanding which initiatives are delivering business impact versus which need tweaking – valuable insights which inform future pipeline of delivery and which would not be clear via anecdotal evidence alone. One of the most powerful ways in which to use data is to understand the ideas that are not delivering intended business impact. Only then can you choose to change direction or close it down and dial up your efforts on other initiatives. There is often a tendency to continue investing in a losing proposition because of what it’s already cost us. Needless to say, we can all fall prey to sunk-cost bias because we are all innately loss averse. Data can play an important calibration role by relying on robust data and associated insights to shine a path to execution which is directionally accurate.   Operating this way drives efficiency both for your team as well as your clients.

  • Data helps you to make informed decisions

Ultimately, data serves as a guide when looking at trends, exploring new use cases for technology and mapping people’s existing capabilities. It is most valuable when used to gain a richer understanding of the current state, enabling informed decision-making that works to enhance future outcomes.

Data helps us to understand context – and when you understand the complete context in which a team, business or client is operating, you can provide fully formed advice and make evidence-based decisions. In the legal industry we sometimes see a propensity to solution jump. Outcomes are so much more impactful when you form a greater understanding of pain points. This involves gathering deeper data allowing you to discover what is contributing to the pain and more importantly what are the root causes. After all:

“Without data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway.”

Geoffrey Moore

Once you start to consider your current relationship with data, including what information you are capturing on a regular basis, you can start to leverage metrics to create better outcomes. This could look like using data to make informed decisions (like choosing to park further away to lift your step count), understand what could be tweaked (changing your bedtime to increase your sleep), drawing on your own good (or not so good) exam results to motivate your children (hello Ethan and Hunter).

Or, you could look at the existing data available to your team, and unpack it to understand how you could make small but mighty changes to improve delivery for your clients. I promise you’ll find leveraging data as fun as I do (we could even find a way to measure, record and report on any increase in positive sentiment).

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