Data & Analytics, Business Strategy, Change Management, Risk Management, Business Reporting Optimization

2 minute read

Do your employees embrace data management? If not, ‘Atomic Habits’ can spark action for them.

Mar 14, 2022

Written by: Stephanie Lennon

I often come back to the analogy that data is like light: You can’t see light directly, but you can see its reflections. Data is remarkably similar.

So, following that analogy a bit further, if your bank is trying to promote sound data management practices, you need take the mystery out of data and recast it as something both real and tangible. As you demystify it, your people can begin to see how they have a stake in the organization’s data integrity and ultimately feel comfortable taking their degree of ownership of it. 

I hear and see a lot of concern from banking leaders around the challenges they face as they work to establish a strong data culture. While building the technology infrastructure is a critical foundational step for FIs in trusting and ultimately monetizing their data, it feels like we’re missing another crucial step if we don’t help the many people who touch data understand the benefit to them as individual performers in creating a well-managed system.

This is where the lessons from James Clear’s runaway bestseller Atomic Habits come in. I listened to the audiobook version this summer, and I was so enthralled with his message that, upon its conclusion, I restarted it from the very beginning. I’m an avid reader/listener, and this was my first time ever doing that, so, clearly (pun intended), the content is magical.

While Clear’s manuscript doesn’t include an explicit word about creating and maintaining accurate data, I kept returning to his methodology as I contemplated the secrets to fostering a solid, lasting data management culture. He does a really excellent job of creating a roadmap for change that puts humanity first, making change feel a little less scary and a lot more achievable. In the data world, for many, data is scary – or at least foreign and uncomfortable – and this human-first design is game changing.

While I provide greater detail in my new white paper, Making a Habit of Good Data Management, I wanted to tee up some early steps for getting started: 

  1. Make It Obvious: Changing behaviors starts with being aware of them. Banking and change management leaders need to create transparency around data by highlighting each step of its use and management for every employee. With these small steps, you’re breaking down processes and systems to the “atomic” particle level and making nebulous data more tangible and real.
  2. Make It Attractive: At this stage, you’re looking to differentiate outcome- and identity-based habits. An employee who doesn’t consider data management as a holistic part of their role might see related tasks as chores or even quasi-punishments. Make it clear that this change is not an external force happening to them, but part of each employee’s evolving professional identity. 
  3. Make It Easy: First off, don’t equate easy with lazy. Instead, aim to more effectively channel your employees’ natural instincts. We’re talking about making data management easier by rewiring neural networks and building muscle memory as your teams practice and adopt desired behaviors.
  4. Make It Satisfying: Unfortunately, gratification with a job well done is delayed, not immediate. So find the moments to call out strong data management behaviors. Recognize and reward those who are doing it right. After all, cultural change starts from the top.

Everyone Owns Data Management

One of the biggest cultural changes you’re driving is eliminating the constricting belief that data lives solely within the technical architecture. Instead, you’re helping your people come to the understanding that the bits and bytes of information they encounter on a daily basis are the lifeblood of your business – and each person plays a role in a strong data management environment. 

Interested in Learning More?

Download my full white paper, Making a Habit of Good Data Management: Trigger a cultural shift through small, deliberate behavioral changes, now. This isn’t a journey where you arrive at your destination with a snap of your fingers. It takes intentionality, strategy and persistence. But you don’t have to go it alone. I’m here to guide you in tailoring this journey to your organization.