It's All About the Data

It's All About the Data
It's All About the Data

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Avoiding Information Overload

In this age of BIG DATA and information overload, exactly how much information can we absorb.  When we communicate with our customers/clients, what is the right amount of information to provide?  The answer to these questions will always depend on:

  • communication mode (face to face, email, web-meeting),
  • customer sophistication (is this new technology, are you evangelizing, etc.,
  • relationship with the customer (new or existing).

However, there are some 'rules of thumb' worth keeping in mind.

Physiologist George Miller developed a 'maximum packets of data' theory.  I am calling it the…

MAGICAL 7 +/- 2

What the theory describes is that in any one encounter (sales call, presentation, conversation) the human brain can absorb/understand 7 (plus or minus 2) packets of data at one time. 

Let us think about this for a second.  Seems to make sense.  If I try to push too much information, I lose my audience, they drown in the information.  In my research of  infographics, the same theory applies; too much graphics/data, and the audience is overloaded - and then disconnects. 
My experience has been I try to leave my conversations/presentations with one or two key points, with an informational backup of 3-5 relevant stats/data/info.  This seems to follow in line with Mr. Miller's theory.

What does this mean to you, who must present to customers, talk to customers, interact with customers?

  1. Avoid powerpoint overload.  Endless text violates the magical 7 +/- theory. 
  2. Plan ahead.  What are the 5-9 key data points you want the listener to go away with?
  3. Try the "tell them what you will say, say it, and recap what you said".  This will help define and clarify the 5-9 datapoints.
  4. Please keep the data graphics simple.  Too much information causes the brain to simply 'tune out'.

Most of this seems common sense, however, it is amazing to see in many presentations how these common sense rules are violated and ignored.
Better communication leads to better customer/client understanding, which leads to a better customer experience.
David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Preparation Separation

There is a football player, Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) that has a saying that goes:

The separation is in the preparation

We are used to catchy phrases used by sports teams to rev up their energy, etc.  However, Wilson walks the walk.

Other quotes about preparation

"Preparation is the key to success" - Alexander Graham Bell

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe" - Abraham Lincoln

"Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared" - George S. Clason

So what are the strategies for excellent preparation.

  • Visualization:  Seeing is believing; it is the way the brain processes information.  By visualizing the key parts of the presentation, the game, the outcome and visualizing completion successfully,  you will increase the chance for success.
  • Study:  That is the part that is underestimated.  Nothing beats the studying part of success.  We all have things to learn, some things to study, concepts to absorb.
  • No time to waste:  Procrastination is the enemy to success.  Waiting does not bring success, letting someone else do it does not make success - being an active participant is the only way.  Personal accountability to the success is the grease of the success engine.

Russell Wilson is not the biggest guy, and would probably admit not the smartest, but he has outworked, and outperformed his way to a Super Bowl Championship.  What made him a champion, a success, was preparation - that endless desire to BE BETTER than he was the previous day.

What are we each doing to be more of a success each day and each opportunity?

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation. @dhaynestech

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Listen - Analyze - Synthesize: A Business Process

When determining customer needs, there are three areas of concentration:
  • Listening
  • Analyzing
  • Synthesizing

If you are having trouble with figuring out what the customer is trying to say or determining a customer's need, you are probably missing one of the three parts.


In general, we all could do better at listening.  Listening to what the customer:
  • says
  • and more importantly "does not say".

Customers, like most people, do not want to admit to issues until they are way past critical stage.  Some gentle questions, open-ended, will usually get the customer to speak more directly to their pain, and therefore business need.

If you are always convincing people you are right, you are not listening to their needs.  I think lively exchange is the best.  Lively exchange focuses on a conversation that elicits emotion from the customer.  Give the customer every opportunity to express their needs.

Ask open-ended questions (open-ended questions cannot be answered with yes, or no, or one-word answers).  Ask clarifying and follow up questions.  Take excellent notes.  Those notes would include your thoughts, strategies, and tactics too.


The next step is to analyze what you heard.  Sometimes this can happen during the conversation, but I found it is more effective to focus on information gathering during the conversation and it is better to analyze after the conversation.  Why?  Because by reviewing your notes after a bit of time passing, it gives you a better analysis.  Your brain should be working behind the scenes to analyze the information.

Make sure to:
  • Think about what business issues you are trying to solve, including the desired deliverable.
  • Discuss with internal sources (salespeople, internal technical resources, etc).
  • Re-read your notes to reveal key themes.


Synthesize is defined as combining various components into new whole;  to combine different ideas, influences, or objects into a new whole.  So the act of synthesizing is a process of 'connecting the data' you have gathered into a new whole.  What does the 'new whole' consist of:
  • An understanding of the problem to be solved in a clear and definitive way.  What is the business problem to be solved.
  • What is the defined solution to the problem.  As you should note, the solution needs to solve the problem.
  • How will you know when the problem is solved. How will the customer know?  This would correlate with the Conditions of Success.
  • An understanding (even if just in a broad way) the major tasks required to accomplish the solution.

A collogue of mine suggested that this is mostly a vetting process, and I quite agree.  Part of the process may conclude in that you cannot solve the business problem, the customer does not have a compelling event, or there is not adequate schedule or budget to solve the business problem.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Truth + Being Right

For those of you Jack Nicholson movie buffs, we remember his speech in "A Few Good Men".  For a refresher - click link.  The memorable line is "You can't handle the truth !"


We all have some issues with 'truth', especially when 'truth' is pointed at us.  We seem to do better when 'truth' is aimed at others (spouse, kids, team members, etc.).  Why is that?
  • We remember all the scoldings we got as kids, and it makes us feel bad.
  • We feel justified in our actions, so therefore we couldn't be wrong.
  • We need to lead, so leaders must not ever be wrong.

Well, if you lead a team of any sort or type, it is deadly to be always right.  Especially reminding the team that you were right is even worse.  Then, on top of it all, you state that you being 'right' is some universal 'truth', that the team better understand and comply.

What you get in the end of all this is animosity, reluctance, inaction, and other team crushing behavior.


First, there are no easy answers.  I really believe we only learn when we fail, when we were not right - when sometime we didn't know the 'truth'.  So where is the balance - how can we assist in spreading the 'truth'?

  • If is now clear to me that you can't stop someone from making the mistake, no matter how much you try. They will learn best from their own mistakes; learning their own truths.
  • As a leader, be there to support and assist after the fall - help clean up the mess.
  • Talk about what we 'wish we would have known before' the problem arose.
  • Let them come to their own conclusion - it will be a more powerful lesson.
  • Express that you have made the same mistake.  You will come off as more 'normal' and less like Jack Nicholson in the movie.

However, you must, in my opinion, still teach, still counsel, still set team standards, and most of all you must set the example as a leader.  Lead by example, by being a good team member also.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Balancing Transparency

There is a gentle balance between total transparency and 'black box mentality".

TRANSPARENCY - where everything you know is known to the customer.  This is sometimes called a "data dump".  By being transparent with our customers, we enable trust, foster communication, and build customer loyalty.  All good things.

BLACK BOX MENTALITY - where "delegated to and controlled by someone else, and left unobserved until the final deliverable" -

Transparency is considered good while black box is considered bad.  My take is a bit different.  When hiring a professional, we need to let them do their work.  When I go to the doctor, I don't ask to be there when the blood analysis is done by the blood technician, because I might want to do it myself later.

My point is that transparency has been used, at times, in the hope of learning the 'secret sauce' , thus eliminating the professional specialist, and the costs therein.
  • This discounts the time and effort the professional has invested to learn the solution to the problem, and how to accomplish it in the most effective manner.
  • Even if a 'data dump' was possible, it will be not be complete.  Processes and methodologies will be learned incorrectly.
  • Data dumps usually require, to be effective, a lot of documentation that is never repeatable and scalable for the professional.

As a customer, it is important to communicate what the expectations are, as a service provider we must also set expectations.  Service providers, read my blog, about the process of setting expectations.

Setting expectations involves early communication, thoughtful negotiation, and mutual benefit to both sides of the negotiation.

What is the best balance?:
  • If you have hired a consultant, let them do their work.  Demand communication, assist in setting expectations (early in the process), and understand that the service provider is in business to make money.
  • If you really want to learn the process in detail - state that early, and be prepared for the provider to walk away (that is what my doctor said when I asked to learn how to do surgery).
  • Be a good partner.  Provide clear information early (see expectations above). Do your part (on time).

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Six Strategies for Effective Leadership

I was listening to a podcast from Pete Carroll (football coach), and his words caught my attention.  Instead of the usual lingo (blitz, 2 deep zone, etc), he spoke at a higher level.  He made a profound statement:

Know who you are

I said ok, but I thought about  the famous saying "I'm okay, you're okay", but quickly added "I'm okay, but you really need some work".  So I was very interested in how Pete was going to make the logical progress from all-accepting to achieving goals.

His strategy was simple and worth repeating.

  • Gameplan - Have a gameplan.  Do we start each day with goals in mind, or are we just surviving?  I hear more and more from my management friends, that their team "is just trying to survive".  Wake up each morning with a gameplan and goals to be achieved that day.

  • Language - This is all about communication.  When I say  "imperative" do you understand what I mean?  When I say "strategy" or "tactics", are we communicating?  If not, then we don't have the same language.  Verbal exchange (face-to-face) needs to be the main methodology of communication in our world.  Lessen those tweets, and cryptic emails - reach out and talk to your team.

  • Consistency - The coach's comment was "say what you are going to do and then DO IT".  If you manage people, be accountable to them, that is the most effective way to have the team reach its goals. If the management is not consistent in theme, presentation, and ACTION - you are destined for inefficiencies.

  • Everyone on Same Page - This may seem obvious, but usually the lack of 'same page' is one of the causes of team dysfunction. 

  • Build on strength and uniqueness  - This one was key for me.  Sometimes we struggle to expand, to do something different and miss the uniqueness that makes us special.  Can you define your personal, team, and company strength and uniqueness - that is your BRAND.  Leverage your BRAND, maximize your BRAND.

  • Focus on task at hand - Provide high-energy, focused energy to complete core tasks.  There are lots of blogs and web sites devoted to this.  My current belief is to turn off your phone, get to a quiet place and get to the business of getting things done.

What surprised me, and encouraged me, was that the strategies noted above can be applied to so much we do in life:  work, home, relationships, hobbies.  The blueprint is above, now is the time to implement those strategies.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Journey - Taking a step

Every journey starts with a first step.

That frightening and anxiety-ridden first step.  Why do we pause….
  • Are we scared
  • Are we prudent
  • Are we frozen?

I learned that the first thing to do is to reduce the directions to take with the first step.  Should I go north, south, east or west.  If you know what direction you don't want to go, that increases the possibility of going in the right direction.

OK - how do we take this notion and apply it to our work?

  • To do good work, you need to do things you have never done before (take a risk)
  • This journey, takes a 'first step'
  • Decide what direction you are going to go.  This involves deciding such things as:
    • What are the company's goals for this journey?
    • Who can I get to assist me on my journey?
    • How much effort am I willing to put in?  Are you all-in or just surviving?
    • When is it due?  You will need to match the effort to the available time available.

The other item I learned is that you cannot eat an elephant in one bite.  What does that mean?
  • Break the larger/longer journey into smaller easier trips.   Take your project and decompose it into smaller sub-projects.
  • Anxiety is reduced when smaller steps and more goals that can be reached are created.  Anxiety is what stops us from taking those uncertain steps on the journey.

Your life's journeys need to be nurtured, but can not be fully realized without taking the first step.  Take a step today.

David Haynes, PMP, is Director of Consulting at Ideate, Inc. (  David's experience is in providing companies with business process analysis and change implementation.  @dhaynestech.