Last week, I posted excerpts from a MIT Sloan article that advocates information delivery speed over information accuracy. The premise being it is better to make a decision on good-enough information, than to miss an opportunity while waiting for perfect information.
This week, I want to call out a related article by Thomas Davenport and Jim Hagemann Snabe, which extends the speed vs. accuracy conversation, with the concept of executive attention.
"Decision makers can digest only so much information, and only so fast; still, executives tend to request much more information than they can actually use. Often, the cycle time of decision making itself, not the pace of information flow, is the real bottleneck that impedes improvements in strategic operating speed.
The real question when it comes to information delivery is how fast and flexibly to do it so that what ultimately gets faster and smarter is not the information supply, but the decision making that determines a business’s performance."
Given their ultimate goal is to speed decision-making, Davenport and Snabe caution against an across-the-board information acceleration policy.
"Not surprisingly, many said they wanted their information faster. But there were major variations with regard to which specific types of information they wanted at a faster pace, and under what business conditions it was essential to have more speed. And because every executive interviewed had different needs and desires for information type and frequency, there is an obvious need for greater flexibility.
Rather, organizations should apply information delivery rates based on business and economic context, business process cycles, decision-making patterns, and decision-making capacity.
Not surprisingly, these factors introduce degrees of information delivery variation:
"However, the type of information needed most quickly is not static and varies with several conditions. The state of the economy, for example, is a major determining factor. Our survey suggested that the type of information most wanted quickly varies widely in a growth economy versus a down economic environment (see “Most Important Information Types by State of Economy”). Note that information of all types (except employee satisfaction) was viewed as more important in a down economy than a growth economy — in some cases, dramatically more so. With information such as quality, market share and competitor news, the differences across economic conditions were substantially less.
The importance of information also varies based on whether an organization is experiencing a crisis versus normal operations. As in a down economy, fast delivery of information is considered much more important overall in crisis mode than in normal daily operations. In a crisis, the most important information types involve cash flow, risk, budgets and scenarios/simulations. In normal operating environments, the most important information types involve quality, employee satisfaction and employee performance/productivity."
Sounds right, but managing for the variation in information sets, delivery and consumption rates, and decision-making urgency / efficiency also sounds hard. Or at least, complicated.
So, I was intrigued by an information management idea raised by one of the interviewed CEOs:
"In the best of all possible worlds you'd have a time-table for each piece of information."
Now, some might think that keeping a distinct time-table for each piece of information is complicated too. But, if you think about it, it's a volume issue, rather than a complexity issue.
Done right, the time-table is actually a simple organizing construct (fixed set of policies and related processing patterns) that is spread across a large range of data.
And, really, designing as I type, you could apply a management by exception philosophy, only marking those information elements with time-tables that are non-standard.
Going one step further, you could even incorporate event-driven (contextual change) dynamism into the time-tables associated with particular groups of information.
Essentially, you could apply active information management strategies at a metadata level, to keep the correct subset of your business information active...
... works on the whiteboard. Give it some thought. I will too.