We understand big data pretty well now, and we’re getting better at it. Analytics are becoming more immediate and much more widespread.What we don’t understand very well is the impact of data and analytics on corporate culture, especially as people are measured individually. Suddenly, there’s vastly more information available about everything from operations decisions to employee performance, and cultures haven’t caught up.
No matter how good of a business case you make, people can get nervous and edgy when everything starts to be measured and quantified. MIT research fellow Michael Schrage argues at the Harvard Business Review that people resist because they’re scared of accountability.
The evolving marriage of big data to analytics increasingly leads to a phenomenon I’d describe as “accountability creep” — the technocratic counterpart to military “mission creep.” The more data organisations gather from more sources and algorithmically analyse, the more individuals, managers and executives become accountable for any unpleasant surprises and/or inefficiencies that emerge.
When it comes down to it, resistance comes about because people see a potential threat to their job. So rather than learning to use these new systems and changing their work habits or strategies in a positive way, they fight back.
Explaining data and analytics can’t just be about learning how to use the tool. organisations need to be aware that this data affects the way people feel and interact. That means explaining benefits instead of just obligations, being as transparent as possible, and making sure that the effect on culture is examined before anything is introduced.
Also, companies need to be crystal clear about consequences and accountability. Will people be fired if they don’t meet targets, or will they be trained more? How does that policy change for different data points? Leaving it ambiguous makes people uncertain and nervous, which is an easy way to dampen any positive effects.
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