How many people at your company are convinced that their version of data (any kind of data) should be taken as the absolute, singular truth? If it’s more than one, you’ve got a problem.
In the business world, decision makers take action based upon the information they have at the moment. When there are conflicting sources of information, it’s exponentially more difficult to make any decision – right or wrong. Instead of making a choice, firms settle into inertia. Inertia is one of the risks companies face every day when they don’t have a single version of the truth, and it costs them money and hurts their reputations.
It starts off innocently enough: two or more people start keeping track of the same type of data. Maybe the information is sales numbers, or it could be the number of qualified prospects a campaign has attracted.
Over time, each person’s information tells a different story. Usually, the divergence is due to data entry errors, but in the long run, it’s not particularly important why the discrepancies exist. What matters is that when it comes time to make a decision, there isn’t one source of data upon which to rely. Everyone claims his or her information is The Truth with a capital T, which leaves decision makers in a perilous position.
“What should we do?” they ask. “How do we make the right decision when we don’t have a trustworthy source of data upon which to base it?” Fear of making the wrong decision sets in. The decision makers reason that no decision is better than one with negative consequences. So, they do nothing.
When you don’t make a decision at all, you give up control of a situation. You’re essentially letting Fate take the wheel and hoping everything turns out for the best.
There are two consequences to inaction: financial repercussions and damage to your reputation. Let’s say you want to move into a new market, but because you have conflicting data, you’re not sure if you should do it. So, you don’t make a decision. While you’re waiting, your competitor moves in and turns an enormous profit.
That’s not the only downside. Your company’s leadership comes under fire because executives couldn’t take action. Their job is to steer the firm along the path to success, and you can’t steer anything if you’re stuck in neutral. If your business is publicly traded, the stock price will drop. Even if it’s privately held, the negative publicity won’t help matters.
The lack of a single version of the truth isn’t the only cause of an inability to make decisions, though it has a clear solution that, once implemented, continues to offer an authoritative source of information upon which to base decisions. Inaction doesn’t have to put your organization at risk – the sooner you have a single version of the truth, the faster you can make better decisions.