Psst — No News Might Be Bad News| By |Lori Forsyth

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If you’re not hearing from your data analysts, it could be that everything is fine, your website humming along like clockwork. But that’s not really a safe assumption to make. The last time an analyst brought you news that there had been an unexpected failure in data capture, you might have been understandably frustrated, and some of that frustration might have ended up being directed at the analyst. How eager do you think that analyst now is to go looking for problems?

In your organization, how do you address the issue that analysts are likely to be the messenger that someone wants to shoot when they deliver unwelcome updates about lost data? In what way can the process be re-engineered so that you have access to information in time to prevent future problems? Ultimately, an early warning system, even though it’s making an unpleasant piercing noise, is the key to preventing future disaster.

At the root, this is a communication problem. I would offer some suggestions for establishing a best-practice early warning system:

-Set clear expectations about transparency — and let people know perfection is not required.

-Schedule regular data quality check-ins; this can turn the occasional report of a data breach into a more routine kind of update, and lower the emotional intensity.

-Have a strategy — what are the steps for fixing a data error? Who gets alerted? Be specific.

-Offer praise — regular check-ins will give you a chance to recognize and celebrate the absence of problems.

Remember, analysts (more than most people) are motivated by getting things right. All humans fear failure, and it is fear that creates the communication tension. If you can make the reporting of data errors “normal” within your organization, you’ll have a competitive advantage.

What can you add to my suggestions? In your organization, how would you go about changing the idea that the only good news is no news?

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