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 A closer look at quadrant 4: Nirvana: More answers, better outcomes

The data journey to reach Nirvana will not happen overnight. There will be setbacks. There will be resistance. There will be failure. There will be ups and downs. Each lesson learned along your journey will help shape and crystalize your vision. Your lessons will show you how to improve. Setbacks, resistance, and failure are all opportunities to grow.

So far this series of articles has examined the first three quadrants (Figure 1 – problem with being data driven matrix | outcomes). We’re now in our final quadrant, Nirvana. Let’s take a deep look at it. And then I’ll answer the question, why does it matter if you decide here?

To bring yourself up to speed please read:

Part 0
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Figure 1 – Problem with being data driven matrix

Nirvana is the ideal space to be in. The work here is with pertinent data and the broadest perspectives. In the Nirvana quadrant, you’ve surrounded yourself with as many SMEs from different perspectives as needed. The SMEs have brought with them targeted, relevant data to help bring insight and context to your question. This is like a team of spearfishermen going after specific fish (Figure 2 – problem with being data driven matrix | analogy). They produce more answers with better outcomes. 

Figure 2 – Problem with being data driven matrix | analogy

If you decide in the Nirvana quadrant, you’ll have confidence in your choices. Why? You have gone through the disciplined effort to build a coalition of SMEs spanning all necessary functional communities. These SMEs also brought their targeted data related to your question. You’ve also examined the value of new data from external sources. When aggregated together you’ll have:

• A clearer understanding of the problem to be solved
• A broader understanding of the operational context
• A deeper understanding of the potential 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects of your decision

Being proactive is the goal. Today, too many people in organizations are reacting to the world around them. They’re being caught flat-footed because questions are being asked and they don’t have the data to answer. They’re charged with running or executing a division/program/project without all the relevant data in front of them. Being in the Nirvana quadrant addresses these issues.

Being data driven is a new paradigm for many people. Effective change management is the most quintessential element for the adoption of anything new. Consider the impact on your people, policy, process, partners, and platforms while achieving a data driven organization. Develop a digital transformation roadmap of integrated initiatives. Identify and prosecute a selection of small, high-impact use cases. We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village” to raise the next generation, well it takes a village to adopt a new paradigm. Bring your village – your mission ecosystem – on the journey with you.

In my personal experience, in order for change to be accepted by all, it must start off small. Those small use cases will generate excitement and momentum. Leveraging the excitement and momentum from the small use cases becomes the catalyst for the rest of the organization. Showcasing their success at organization-wide events, internal and external media, and live demos all help others see the realm of the possible. Others within the organization will see what their teammates have accomplished and will want to take part too.

My personal data driven story continued

Our data driven journey continued by trying to answer these questions:

1. If we had a dollar to spend, where should we spend it?
2. Do we have a 1-N list, a prioritized list for ranges?
3. If they spent that dollar, what would be the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th order effects of that decision?
4. What is the capacity of our ranges? Have we exceeded the capacity?
5. How do we leverage community partnerships? Sister services?
6. What’s the risk?

In the prior part of my story, we deconstructed the problem. Focusing on the major stakeholders that are impacted by the outcome of ranges. This approach led us to be more selective of the data we needed and ensures we had the right perspective. The momentum and excitement we had gained as our journey unfolded was amazing. It brought more people, their perspectives, and their data, into the fold. Finally, we had reached Nirvana.

The team, now quite large, began spearfishing. Each question our spearfish gun. Each answer our fish. In May 2018, our efforts were realized into a data driven 30 years, $954M, strategy right-sizing, and right typing all the AFIMSC firing ranges across the globe. This asset management approach was a first of its kind in the USAF.

To learn more about our firing range journey check out this article: Leveraging Data Science, Delivering a Data Driven Decision Model Providing Facility Capabilities Meeting Mission Needs

Being data driven is a continuous journey. As you bring more perspectives and targeted data, more questions will arise. With each new question, you may find yourself in one of the four quadrants. But knowing which ideal quadrant you should be in, you’ll likely speed or skip completely 1 or all the other 3 quadrants. In the final paper, we’ll look at the patterns and anti-patterns of data-driven decisions.

Jim Eselgroth

Jim Eselgroth

Deputy, Chief Technology Officer
jeselgroth@definitivelogic.com

As Definitive Logic’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer, Jim helps government leaders optimize mission outcomes by leveraging technology, thought leadership, and change management techniques. Jim ensures excellence in the delivery of full life-cycle digital transformation activities, long-term technology strategy and vision planning, and innovation project portfolio management. 

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