Traffic Signs, “Personalising” Data and Strategy Execution

Yes, Officer.  I did see the speed limit sign.  I just didn’t see you!

I’ve been reading about the impact of traffic signs that show motorists their speed.  These are often put up in residential areas or construction zones.  The purpose is to give feedback to the driver about how fast they are going.  And it seems to work.  I know that when I am driving I have, like many others, the tendency to drive and think of other things at the same time.  Not the best approach to safe driving, but very natural for all of us. So when a motorist sees a digital sign that displays his/her actual speed, it helps us switch off autopilot, check our speed and pay more attention to safe driving.

And the statistics are favourable. According to one study 75% of drivers who see their car speed flashed up immediately slow down and are more cautious, staying within the speed limit for approximately 5 miles after passing the digital sign.

To me, this is a great example of the power of “Personalising Data”; that is, making it about me and not just otherwise impersonal information.  For example, a printed speed sign, say 35 mph, is impersonal and really doesn’t get much of our attention in this fast-moving, data overload world we live in.  But a flashing digital speed sign that specifically focuses on me and my speed, becomes “personalised data” and, as the study shows, the impact lasts for miles after the event.

So, what’s this got to do with strategy execution?  Quite a lot, actually.  One of the reasons most strategies fail is that the information given out at most meetings, like current revenue, current forecast, current EBITDA, sales funnel numbers, customer service scores, etc. are useful, but impersonal.  They are collective numbers and collectively we are supposed to do something about them, either reverse a negative trend or keep a positive trend going.

In these types of meetings or business reviews, everyone nods their heads, makes notes, promises to do better, then it’s back to business as usual.  The data wasn’t personal and so the strategy lumbers along, often sidelined by daily “firefighting” and immediate problem solving.

“Every seasoned executive knows that if everyone is accountable, nobody’s accountable!”

Our unique Line-of-Sight™ Strategy Execution process, however, has built-in “personalised data”.  Strategic initiatives have specific individual owners who are fully accountable to the entire organisation for the delivery of an important piece of the strategic plan.  And each member of the senior leadership team is personally accountable for one or more strategic initiatives.  And when your project data is shown during the strategy review meetings, in front of all the other executives, this data suddenly becomes very personal.  Peer pressure to perform well, not let the team down, to “look good” to the boss, and all the other human factors associated with personal motivation now come strongly into focus.  “Personalized Data” helps you and I take the situation personally and the impact in terms of correction actions, focused countermeasures, and improving results is focused and substantial.

Most people say: “Don’t take it personal, it’s just business!” But I say:

“Take it personal.  It’s about leadership!”

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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