Week 1: People want answers, not numbers


Rule 1: People want answers, not numbers.

The challenge:  This week, focus on simply and directly answering people’s questions.

Very often when asked a question, we meander our way to the answer or provide an indirect answer. This week, when someone asks you a question, pause for a moment and really think about what they’ve asked.  This part is really important. Often the reason that we don’t answer people’s questions directly is that we haven’t taken the time to really listen to what they asked.

Before answering, determine the nature of their question and the type of answer they are seeking.  If they asked you a “yes” or “no” question (e.g., Do we need to invest more in our marketing program) your response should be “yes” or “no”.  Don’t provide a bunch of data about marketing or a brief history lesson about what you’ve been doing in marketing.

Here are some other examples:

If they ask . . . Your answer (the first thing out of your mouth) should be:
Who are our top performers? A list of names of people.
How are we doing? You should provide a status (good, bad, pretty good except for x)
How many people do we need for this new project? The number of people required
Why are we having so many quality issues? A list of reasons (or a root cause reason) for the quality problem
Do you think that we should add resources to the project? “Yes” or “No”


This may sound obvious.  However, about 90% of the time when I hear someone ask a question, the person responding does not actually answer; at least not immediately. We tend to provide a bunch of information, data, process, or background.

Answer the question.  Then provide whatever data is necessary to support your answer.

We’d love to hear how it’s going.  Add your comments here or in the Rethinking Data Alumni forum on LinkedIn.

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