I smile when co-workers/colleagues say “can you just tell me what I should do with these results, I’m not a data person.” If I know the person well enough (or am feeling like the mood could be lightened a bit), I’ll ask the person if they balance their checkbook (who does that anymore)? I will get a puzzled look. Then I’ll ask – do you in general make sure you have enough money in the bank before you make purchases? They say, of course I do. Then, “you are a data person.”
Even the slightest understanding of data is a starting point. Rather than having someone understand data MY way, I want to understand data THEIR way – and then offer some coaching tips on how to better use data. Here are two ways to engage others into institutional research through the back door.
Get People Talking about their Data
People love to share about their world more than they want to listen to you about yours. So yes, I’ll gladly be the person who listens – and learns (I love to learn). It may take more than one conversation to find some ways to collaborate. Get the conversation started and schedule them regularly.
Let the SME take the Lead
I am never going to know as much as the subject matter expert (SME) in finance, admissions, student financial aid, human resources, _________etc. (you fill in the blank). And, I don’t want to be the operational expert in those areas. No one can be expert in every area of the institution. For example, telling the CFO how to solve a financial problem when you’ve analyzed the information for a fraction of the time that he or she has lived it is a bit insulting. I can get further, faster if I let the SME take the lead in showing where things are going well vs. areas that are challenging. I look for opportunities to provide analyses, data, or added value on the challenging areas. If the person knew how to solve the problem already – it wouldn’t be a challenge and they would have done it already.
These strategies give a more collaborative approach and increase the odds of achieving collectively greater results.