stories have a powerful effect on your ability to succeed with a strategy that
involves big data and a data science team. These stories have a past and permanence. Legendary stories are the ones that are told
over and over again at company events, at the watercooler, and even when
colleagues are hanging out after work.

It’s very important to pay attention
to these stories because they’re a big part of your company’s culture and its collective behavior. If the use of big data in your strategy doesn’t align
properly with the legends that are circulated, you’ll have a difficult time
getting the company on board with your ideas.

Catalog the company’s legends

suggest you and your change leads intentionally catalog your company’s legends. This exercise will not only serve you in your current strategy, but it
will continue to pay dividends for a long time to come. The informal system
that runs your company is inconspicuous, so you must be alert and assiduous in
this exercise.

First, note the informal leadership structure by paying close
attention to whom people follow, regardless of title or position. Then, ask
these informal leaders about the stories that have been handed down through the
years. It may take some time because this isn’t something people consciously think
about, but it’s important to make a record of and then analyze these stories. You’re looking for morals, heroes, and why these
stories are important.

I first started consulting for Sun Microsystems in 2004, I was excited to
learn the company had a Six Sigma Center of Excellence and a lot of Black
Belts. However, I found that not all departments
embraced the idea of Six Sigma. As the story goes, Six Sigma rolled into Sun
like a bulldozer, and senior leadership required every manager to become a Black
Belt. This engendered an epidemic of frivolous projects whose sole purpose was
to get their leaders certified (it’s a requirement for Black Belt certification
to run at least two Six Sigma projects). This left a bad taste in many mouths, and these stories formed a culture of Six Sigma resistance in many departments.
If Sun was around today, and I was a leader trying to launch a strategy that
incorporated sophisticated analytics, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this
Six Sigma history and the stories that go along with it into consideration.

Write your future’s history

adjustments based on the legendary stories of the past isn’t the only way to
leverage the power of stories — you can write the legendary stories of your
future by crafting them today. Your strategy has a horizon in the future. And
although two years is the new 10 when it comes to strategy, as a leader you
must continually keep your focus at the future endpoint.

This is what it means to write your
future’s history: consider what your legendary stories should be
when your strategy is in full swing, and start putting those stories in motion. When your strategy unfolds, you’ll need your culture to support
analytics and the data science team that’s delivering these analytics — to the
organization, the marketplace, or both.You’ll craft policy and
procedures to formally support your efforts; however, they won’t be
effective unless you engage the informal system, which is supported by informal
leaders and the legends they share with their followers.

do this, write these stories into your strategic execution and choose your heroes,
your maxims, and the outcomes that will make these stories significant. You can
start with an easy target and take a small win, and then leverage the momentum
into bigger wins. With each win, make sure the story is known and recorded,
especially with the organization’s informal leaders. This is a technique I
call analytic magniloquence, which is a fancy way of saying brag about
your analytic successes and make sure your heroes take credit for the wins.

example, imagine you’re the leader of an auto manufacturer that wants to create
an analytic service where its cars send diagnostics to the cloud, and customers
get real-time maintenance feedback sent back to their console. As a small win,
you target a risk-based maintenance monitor that records driving habits and
some basic diagnostics from the car, and alerts customers when they should come
in for maintenance. Before attacking this small win, write the story of how the
analytic team (under the guidance of your analytics manager) brought the company
into the future with a cloud-based maintenance program that nobody’s ever seen
before. Then, when the strategy takes its first small success, make sure key
informal leaders like the Director of Service, share it with their people and
give your data science team their due credit.


Great stories build the culture of our families,
our nations, and our organizations. Formulating a great strategy can be
inspiring and motivating, but everything can fall apart in implementation
if you don’t pay attention to the stories that undergird your company’s informal systems.

If your strategy includes big data analytics and the formation
of a data science team, you must make sure your stories shine advanced
analytics in a positive light. Take the time to listen, learn, and
analyze your company’s legends and lore.