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Executive Information Systems, Belly Fat & Your Garage

May 03, 2013

Dashboards can be invaluable, power points can have a life span measured in minutes, but they both really reflect just the surface of your system for managing information.   In business, some people call such a system an “Executive Information System” (EIS), but actually we all have and use some type of system for managing or getting the most value out of information we’re in contact with.  But here’s the interesting wrinkle, your ability to improve your system may be strongly impaired by your approach to organizing your garage and losing belly fat.  Keep reading, I’ll explain and I think you’ll find it interesting.

For the purpose of this blog, let’s just call your information system EIS, and whether it’s a notebook you write in, your task list on a pc, or a full blown information system that pulls data in across multiple sites and sources, it represents something that helps you make decisions based upon your ability to collect, process and review information. We all function with an EIS system, formal or informal, whether we are in management or not, but the quality varies wildly.

Since everyone wants to make good decisions, or at least would like to avoid the consequences of bad decisions, wouldn’t we all want to have a really good EIS?  I mean who doesn’t want to be successful, avoid being frustrated, make more money, live the dream… whatever that may be?  And to do that you have to make good decisions.  In fact often, you have to make better decisions than your peers.  Whoops.  Was that a challenging thought?  Actually I’ve got a few more for you, there’s some interesting twists and turns to be navigated and road blocks to be avoided to improve your EIS.

Challenging Thought Repeated:

Everyone has an EIS, but most people’s EIS are compromised.  That’s right, your EIS and mine could use some improvement.  Maybe a lot of improvement.  New information get’s blocked coming in all sorts of way (we weren’t looking so didn’t see it, we think we already know so we forgot to ask or look again, etc.), with the result we don’t make the best decisions possible.  That means most of us need to upgrade our EIS to improve our decision making, and that also means you typically need to make better decisions than your friends, co-workers, your family.  So you have to leave your comfortable reference group and your own history behind sometimes, but that’s not the only challenge to getting a better information management system.  You see along  the way to building a better EIS you are going to run into some predictable obstacles that you need to overcome, such as: the drudgery of documenting after the fact; the substitution of meetings and talking for a documented EIS system; and/or the tendency to just go get busy on  something else.

Documenting… isn’t that close to Dieting?

It never fails, documenting gets about as many groans as the idea of dieting.  Sort of a bad tasting combination of deprivation and boredom.  I’ve already blogged about the nemesis most people run into when trying to get others to participate via documenting in their EIS at work.     But the bottom line, is that if you want to improve your information management system, you’ve got to learn to require of others and yourself that the critical thinking process and results get’s documented.  There’s a whole set of reasons for this, you can learn more about the mystery of the documenting grind at this BLOG.

Attraction Isn’t the Same as Commitment

Another common detour to avoid when upgrading your EIS is to think that attraction to the idea will carry the day.  It won’t.   First of all, what I notice about many executives is that they view/treat  the EIS they buy, like ManagePro, as sort of a conflictual,  high maintenance dating relationship.  They want it,  and yet they struggle  with it.  They engage and then pull back.  They idealize about how great it will be,  and they struggle with the effort required  (hassle factor) to get people to maintain it  – isn’t that built into the software? ;)   If you want to know more, I talk about that and the similarity to dating patterns in this BLOG.

Ok, ready to get to connection between EIS and belly fat and your garage is?  Me too.

Let’s start with your garage… a little less personal.

Do you ever confuse the purpose of your garage and its organization?  Come to think of it, that sounds like a potential marital dispute.  Back to the point.  Hopefully you realize the purpose of your car is to house your vehicle.  As long as you can drive it in and park, your garage has fulfilled its primary mission, whether its a mess or not.

Here’s the point, some people confuse the mission of their EIS with organization.  Don’t look around, it could be you.  You know the feeling of satisfaction of having everything organized, folders set up in Outlook, color coding somewhere else, new labels on your file folders.  Ok, ok, you get the point, right?  Organization is a secondary feature its not the main purpose of your garage or your EIS.    The purpose of your EIS is to make good decisions.  Now being organized can help, but it isn’t the primary determiner of having an effective EIS.  You need to be accurately tracking the right information, and that usually involves metrics, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Let’s turn to belly fat.  This is a good one.

Most of us have a few pounds around the middle that we wish we didn’t, me included.  But as you read this, your belly fat is going to do two things really helpful for you as we are thinking about your EIS.

1.  Belly fat, like a compromised or not very effective EIS, only exists because we allow it.  The pain/gain ratio doesn’t seem worth the effort to fix it.  So for the next month, every time you feel chagrined about your belly, I’d like you to take that energy and transfer it to the pain/gain ratio of committing to getting your EIS finely tuned and really effective.  It has a much better chance of making you more money.  You can deal with your belly in June.  See you probably already feel better reading that, right?

2. Ok, so we’re going to work on your EIS, not your belly this month.  What do we need to do next?  Most people manage belly fat by regularly looking at the scale.  This the best point of the whole blog, so get this.   Monitoring your scale does about as much to remove belly fat, as monitoring your financials does to improve your P/E ratio.

What?  Yes, to have a really effective EIS you need to measure and track what drives your outcomes just as much as you tracking your outcomes.  

Ok, got that?  So in order to have an EIS that helps you make better decisions, you need to track and measure the kind of information that contributes to your decision process.  Your EIS is drastically incomplete if it doesn’t have metrics and assessment of trends that will drive your ultimate outcomes.  Let me be more specific, here’s a couple of suggestions for what to track in your EIS to make it really valuable, especially at work:

1. Make sure your EIS tracks in a measurable way your top 3 outcomes.  Find a way to measure it, and do it monthly.  And when you measure it monthly, write a summary comment about why you think the metric is what it is.
2. Go down a level and track what the top two drivers are that influence each top outcome.  This ensures you’re looking at the right information.  If sales are one of your top outcomes, make sure you are tracking at least two variables that drive sales.  Your information system suddenly gets much more effective at helping you make the right decisions.
3. Make your organization really simple and use search to find stuff, instead of getting super detailed about labels for everything.  Last time I checked, labels don’t make anyone more money or help you reach your dreams.  David Allen’s “Get it Done” system just uses Active and Deferred.  Let the EIS software do the rest of the work for you.  In ManagePro I group things under a simple, topical outline structure and use Search for everything else.

In closing, check out the video below for a discussion about how to avoid these common detours to gain the benefits of getting things done and making better decisions based on the most up-to-date information.  But most of all, remember that adding regular tracking and metrics to what’s important is a huge boost to the value of your EIS.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the blog.  Quick, now what was that again about belly fat and garages?

Getting Things Done with Executive Information Systems

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