Numbers, numbers everywhere–from your favorite sport to your social media account. Analytics and the collection of data have turned even the most people-oriented enterprises into one’s guided by a jumble of algorithms and statistics.
Even in the business world, it has become a battle between numbers and nuance, a struggle that has even the most seasoned leaders shelving their one-on-one engagement initiatives to sign up for the latest and greatest report. For Jabian Consulting Founder and Managing Partner Chris Reinking, and his Executive Director Chad McCloud, this is a mistake.
In their mind, their success has come from being principle-driven and metrics-supported. The two are not mutually exclusive, and when the principles come first, leaders have a better understanding of staff, community, customers, and a driving commitment to all three.
So, What is the Right Way to Use Metrics?
With just a brief glance at their community activism, it’s clear that Jabian is indeed principle-driven. They even go so far as to introduce a set of 10 values for the company that they use as a guide. A clear indication of this commitment comes in the form of their non-profit, Jabian Cares. (Yes, management consultants actually do care).
“It started as a way of pulling upon colleagues to bring their talents to the causes we care about as individuals,” McCloud explains. “We don’t support just one single non-profit. What we did is say, all of our employees have different things they are passionate about. We allow folks to recognize their own passions and to work on things that are important to them.”
Jabian Cares falls squarely into the category of one of the company’s core principles – engagement. After the company delineates the principles, metrics are then used as just one way to gauge the success of said values. “Putting numbers in place can have good consequences and not so good consequences, and that’s why we are at that principally driven concept,” McCloud explains. Metrics provides them with enough of a construct to see how effective they are being, professionally, while their principles provide the leeway to avoid specific targets and look objectively as to what is being accomplished.
Jabian adds objectivity to how they measure the impact of their principle-based approach in two ways. “For our clients, we actually conduct interviews at the end of pretty much every project. We also do large scale surveys throughout the year,” McCloud states. This even applies to employees. With the real-world information in hand, and the corresponding data collected, this allows Jabian to measure their success, not just as a matter of business, but as one of core values, as well.
Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback
Especially the bad kind… “The bar is set, being a locally based firm,” Reinking points out. “You can’t hide if clients are not as pleased as they could be.” McCloud agrees, telling leaders to be aware of breaking the “echo chamber” of the boardroom and listening, even if what you hear is painful at times. “When someone is telling you the baby is ugly, that’s a hard thing to hear until you take a deep breath and say, you know what, we are a continuous improvement organization.” Even with high engagement scores, Jabian never sits on its laurels. “We want to look,” he adds, “we want to challenge people to really think about, even if their experience is great, what we can do differently and what we can do better.”
One of the key ways of putting that information into action is through ‘journey mapping.’ “You can do 10,000 things to help improve matters and make it a better situation,” Reinking says, “but it’s prioritizing and picking that’s what really matters.” McCloud concurs. “People will put a lot of effort into the collection of data without any appreciation of what they can do with it,” he adds. He also notes that leaders need to be prepared for bad news as well as good, and be willing to make the changes necessary, no matter how difficult or painful they may be. “We always experiment on ourselves first,” McCloud says.
Don’t Drown in Data
Turn that data into action. “What we normally see across the board is that there is no shortage of information and metrics that are being captured today,” Reinking states, adding “companies are drowning in data; they’ve got more metrics than they know what to do with, and especially with the ability to be able to measure nearly any type of an activity you want out there. There’s a lot of data, but how do you actually turn that into action? That’s where we see a lot of opportunity for our clients.”
That’s why for Jabian Consulting, it’s about balance – between numbers and nuance, between employees, the community, and their clients. For them, it’s about making the most of a mountain of data. By scaling that peak and seeing where it is taking them, they create a challenge to the traditional consulting model. That’s what being a disruptor is all about.