Tag Archives: goal

Data and Statistics Without Source Information Are Useless

As I was formulating my 2011 business goals for Dow Brook Advisory Services earlier this week, I wondered how many people actually bother to create, record, and monitor goals. Not vague New Years resolutions – real, specific goals. So I did some quick, non-exhaustive research, which consisted of a Google Search query. Here is what I found:

  • 80 percent of people never set goals for themselves
  • Of the 20% of the population that does set goals, roughly 70 percent fail to achieve the goals they have set

SOURCE: http://www.myarticlearchive.com/articles/7/189.htm

  • Of the 20% that do write down goals, only 20% regularly review them

SOURCE: http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com.au/Article/Setting_goals

  • 3 percent of the American population set goals consistently, and are among the wealthiest people in the country

SOURCE: http://www.ehow.com/how_4582821_set-worthwhile-attainable-goals.html

This last item led me to another, more detailed collection of goal setting statistics generated by Harvard University:

“There was a study done at Harvard between 1979 and 1989. Graduates of the MBA program were asked “Have you set clear written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The results of that question were:

1. Only 3% had written goals and plans
2. 13% had goals but not in writing
3. 84% had no specific goals at all

10 years later Harvard interviewed the members of that class again and found:

1. The 13% who had goals but not in writing were earning on average twice as much as the 84% of those who had no goals at all
2. The 3% who had clear, written goals were earning on average 10 times as much as the other 97% of graduates all together. The only difference between the groups is the clarity of the goals they had for themselves”

SOURCE: http://www.betternetworker.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=23456

While the author of the article, Keith Aul, does not provide a source citation for the Harvard study, further quick research revealed that is was discussed in the widely-read book written by Mark McCormack, titled What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.

I checked a copy of McCormack’s book out of my local library to see for myself how he presents the survey results and cites its source. McCormack provides neither an index nor a bibliography. I manually scanned the entire book (256 pages) to find the passage. I was unsuccessful on the first scan, so I repeated the effort, but at a slower pace and with greater care. Same result.

I had been looking at the original edition of McCormack’s book, published in 1984. I thought that perhaps there might be a later edition that contained the reference to the Harvard study. Some additional research showed that there were indeed subsequent editions. The book was reissued in 1986, 1989, and 1994.

I went back and reread Aul’s quotation of the Harvard study results and noted that the second set of statistics are from a follow-up study supposedly done in 1989. So there is no way that the study could have been quoted in the 1984 or 1986 editions of McCormack’s book, despite the legion of attributions made on the Web. It is possible (but unlikely) that the Harvard study was cited in the 1989 edition of What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. There is a higher probability that it was included in the 1994 edition. I was unable to find a copy of either edition to peruse, but apparently they were both small printing runs, as they are not available on Amazon.com. Therefore, I do not believe that the Harvard study information is contained in the 1989 or 1994 edition of McCormack’s bo0k either. (Please let me know if I am wrong.)

There is a good blog post, The Harvard Written Goal Study: Fact or Fiction, that chronicles the unsuccessful effort the post author, Sid Savara, made to find a copy of the study on the Web. Yes, unsuccessful. Savara could not find a copy of any such study via Web research. Nor could I. Not even Google Scholar had a clear reference to the research.

Things get even worse. Savara also discusses a similar, apparently fictitious study conducted at Yale University in 1953, the existence of which was denied by Yale in the following FAQ on its Web site.

“It has been determined that no “goals study” of the Class of 1953 actually occurred. In recent years, we have received a number of requests for information on a reported study based on a survey administered to the Class of 1953 in their senior year and a follow-up study conducted ten years later. This study has been described as how one’s goals at graduation related to success and annual incomes achieved during the period.

The secretary of the Class of 1953, who had served in that capacity for many years, did not know of [the study], nor did any of the fellow class members he questioned. In addition, a number of Yale administrators were consulted and the records of various offices were examined in an effort to document the reported study. There was no relevant record, nor did anyone recall the purported study of the Class of 1953, or any other class.”

It seems that both the Harvard and Yale studies, which are frequently trotted out as evidence for the power of setting and writing down goals, are in fact non-existent. Urban legends.

As if that is not shocking enough, note that all of the other goal setting statistics that I cited at the beginning of this post had no source attribution in the blog post from which I pulled them! They were prefaced by meaningless phrases such as “studies show” or statistics prove”.

I originally intended this to be a post about the power of goal setting, but, in light of the discoveries made during my research on the topic, I have decided to make a different point:

It is very difficult to use statistics to support an argument when the data is of unknown origin and its validity cannot be proven.

The amount of data which is generated and made available for analysis is growing exponentially. Yet, that data and the related statistical insight derived from it is utterly useless if the source is not properly documented and cited. Keep that in mind the next time you hear a business colleague, partner, or supplier present a statistic to justify their position.

I would be remiss to close this post without presenting a solution to the problem to which I’ve drawn attention. There are three things that each of us can do to ensure the credibility of the data we make available and the results of its analysis:

  1. Always document the source of any data when it is generated, so those analyzing it can provide a proper source citation
  2. Never generate statistics from a data set without knowing its source
  3. Never cite statistics that are not accompanied by a definitive source citation

If we do those three things, we will be able to have confidence in the data and statistics we are using to make business decisions. If we do not do them, then we are only fooling ourselves when presenting or consuming raw data or “polished” analysis.

Social Business Transformation: Focus on Small, Not Sweeping, Change

“…transformation happens less by arguing cogently for something new than by generating active, ongoing practices that shift a culture’s experience of the basis for reality.” — Roz and Ben Zander, The Art of Possibility

The recent debates, at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference and in the blogosphere, about E2.0 and Social Business have made one thing clear to me. Too many of us dwell on the transformative aspects of social business. Myself included.

This is likely so because most organizations value other things more highly than their people and act accordingly. Their behaviors cry out for transformation to those who envision a better way of doing business.

However, achieving sweeping transformation of the way that people are considered and treated is the wrong goal for most organizations.

It is important to remember that not all companies wish to transform themselves into social businesses, much less anything else. In fact, most begrudgingly embrace transformation only when they are forced to do so by changes occurring around them.

Instead of concentrating on “big bang” transformation, we should seek to make a series of small changes to a business’s people practices and systems. In other words, leave the organization alone. Do not focus social change efforts directly on organizational structure or culture.

It is more effective to address specific policy, process, and technology problems at the individual or role level. Let those snowflakes of change add up on top of each other to create a snowball that, when put in motion, will continue to grow until it becomes an unstoppable force. Measure impact in the same additive manner instead of seeking the big, single instance of benefit favored by traditional ROI analysis.

Wondering where to start introducing social practices and technologies in your organization? Look around. What specific challenges are customers, employees, and partners turning to each other to overcome? How are they finding someone who can help, and how are they interacting once they have identified that person? How is what they have learned shared with others?

Now imagine and investigate ways that your organization can help all of its constituents work together to solve those problems faster and less expensively. Be sure to consider technology that enables this, but do not forget to examine policy and process changes that could help too.

That is the way to improve your organization while recognizing and supporting its existing, inherent social nature. Forget about large-scale transformation. Focus instead on using people power to solve specific problems and challenges that, while small by themselves, add up to a significant gain for the business when addressed and overcome.

Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business: Who Cares?!

As you may have already observed, the debate about what label to attach to the renewed focus on people in the business world has been rekindled this week, in conjunction with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. While I will address the label question here, I do not intend to get mired in the debate. Instead, I will focus on whether or not the” people matter” movement should be described with tool talk or addressed in a more holistic fashion.

First, the label. I do not care if you call this renewed focus on people and the connections between them in the business world “Enterprise 2.0” (E2.0), “Social Business”, or anything else. The value to be gained from connecting people within and between organizations is to be found in what’s accomplished as a result of doing so, not in what the notion is called. Sure, it is helpful for the movement to have a lingua franca with which to “sell” the vision to business leaders. However, a consensus label is not necessary. A clearly articulated, holistic approach and value proposition are required.

So forget the label. Instead, focus on the substance of what we (those who believe that people matter in business) are presenting to organizational leaders that are more concerned about traditional issues like process efficiency and financial performance.

Now, on to the real debate. In his latest blog post, Andrew McAfee continues to insist that the message needs to be tool-centric. He says that we should address executives in phrases such as,

“There are some important new (social) technologies available now, and they’ll help you address longstanding and vexing challenges you have”

The movement is not just about tools. In fact, the tool-centric focus to-date of E2.0 is a primary reason why the movement’s core message that people matter has not reached the C-suite, much less sway their thinking. To suggest to a senior executive that the only way to better their organization’s performance is through the application of technology is simply, well, simplistic. We need to discuss all of the levers that they can pull to change the way their organizations consider, enable, incent, and interact with customers, employees, and partners.

To succeed in transforming an organization, leaders must change and communicate what is valued and how people are rewarded for applying those values while attaining stated goals and objectives. We must show those leaders that modifying organizational values to include (or increase) the importance of people to the business can lead to tangible increases in revenue and decreases in operating cost. The benefits statement does not need to be presented as an ROI analysis; anecdotal evidence from efforts within the organization, or from other entities, should suffice. And, yes, technology should be presented as an enabler of both the change effort itself and the new value system guiding the organization.

And one more thing. This movement, however we choose to label and describe it, is NOT a revolution. Senior leaders fear and shun revolutions. So avoid using that word when selling the vision. We are not advocating the overthrow of existing enterprise organizational or IT systems. Instead, we seek to convincingly demonstrate that augmenting the existing ways of conducting and managing business with a complementary, people-centric approach can yield substantial benefits to those organizations who do so. Do not preach revolution; instead, suggest specific actions that leaders can take to better connect people in and outside of their organization and show them the kinds of results that doing so can produce.

You Are Your Organization’s Chief Collaboration Officer

I Want You!There have been a couple of interesting blog posts about organizational collaboration leadership penned recently by respected, influential thinkers. Last week, Morten Hansen and Scott Tapp published Who Should Be Your Chief Collaboration Officer? on the Harvard Business Review site. Yesterday, Dion Hinchcliffe posted Who should be in charge of Enterprise 2.0? on Enterprise Irregulars.

It is logical that the question of the proper seat of ownership for enterprise collaboration efforts is being raised frequently at this moment. Many organizations are starting the process of rationalizing numerous, small collaboration projects supported by enterprise social software. Those social pilots not only need to be reconciled with each other, but with legacy collaboration efforts as well. That effort requires leadership and accountability.

Both of the posts cited above – as well as the comments made on them – add valuable ideas to the debate about who should be responsible for stimulating and guiding collaboration efforts within organizations. However, both discussions miss a critical conclusion, which I will make below. First, allow me to share my thoughts on the leadership models suggested in the posts and comments.

While it is critical to have collaboration leadership articulated and demonstrated at the senior executive level, the responsibility for enterprise collaboration cannot rest on one person, especially one who is already extremely busy and most likely does not have the nurturing and coaching skills needed for the job. Besides, any function that is so widely distributed as collaboration cannot be owned by one individual; organizations proved that long ago when they unsuccessfully appointed Chief Knowledge Officers.

Governance of enterprise collaboration can (and should) be provided by a Collaboration Board. That body can offer and prescribe tools, and establish and communicate policy, as well as good practices. However, they cannot compel others in the organization to collaborate more or better. Yes, Human Resources can measure and reward collaboration efforts of individuals, but they can only dangle the carrot; I have never seen an organization punish an employee for not collaborating when they are meeting other goals and objectives that are given higher value by the organization.

There is only one person (or many, depending on your perspective) for the job of actively collaborating – YOU! Ultimately, each individual in the organization is responsible for collaboration. He can be encouraged and incented to collaborate, but the will to work with others must come from the individual.

Collaboration in the enterprise is similar in this regard to knowledge management, where the notion of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) has been gaining acceptance. PKM advocates believe that having each member of the organization capture, share, and reuse knowledge, in ways that benefit them personally, is far more effective than corporate mandated knowledge management efforts, which generally produce benefits for the enterprise, but not the individuals of which it is comprised.

So it is with collaboration. If an individual does not see any direct benefit from working with others, they will not do so. Conversely, if every employee is empowered to collaborate and rewarded in ways that make their job easier, they will.

The Enterprise 2.0 movement has correctly emphasized the emergent nature of collaboration. Individuals must be given collaboration tools and guidance by the organization, but then must be trusted to work together to meet personal goals that roll-up into measures of organizational success. The only individual that can “own” collaboration is each of us.

Enterprise Social Software and Portals: A Brief Comparison of Deployment Patterns

In my last post, I examined whether or not Enterprise Social Software (ESS) is the functional equivalent of enterprise portal applications as they existed ten years ago. My conclusion was:

From a functional perspective, ESS is quite similar to enterprise portal software in the way that it presents information, but that does not tell the whole story. ESS lacks critical personalization capabilities, but provides better collaboration, process, publication and distribution, categorization, and integration functionality than portals. In my judgment, ESS is somewhat similar to portal software, but mainly in appearance. It makes more functionality available than portals did, but needs to add a key missing piece – personalization.

In this post, I will focus on the observation that ESS resembles enterprise portals in another regard – how and why it is deployed.

Enterprise v. Smaller Deployments

Portals were initially marketed as a tool for enterprise-wide communication and interaction, with each internal or external user role having its own personalized set of resources available in the user interface. While there were some early enterprise-wide deployments, portal software was deployed far more often at the functional level to support specific business processes (e.g. sales, procurement, and research portals) or at the departmental level to support operations.

Enterprise social software has also been touted as most valuable when deployed across an organization. However, like portal software, ESS has most often been deployed at the functional level in support of activities such as marketing, customer service, and competitive intelligence. As a result, the promised network effects of enterprise-wide deployments have not been realized to-date, just as they were not with most portal deployments.

Internal- v. External-Facing Deployments

Most early portal deployments were internally-focused, as shown in this InformationWeek summary of market research conducted in 2001. Not only was there a smaller number of externally-focused deployments, mixed-audience deployments did not begin to appear until the portal market was extremely mature. ESS deployments have followed this same pattern, and we are just now seeing early efforts to blend inward- and outward-facing business activity in common ESS environments.

Internal Use Cases

Portal software was often deployed in response to a specific business need. Among the most common were:

  • intranet replacement/updgrade
  • self-service HR
  • application aggregation
  • document/content management
  • expertise location
  • knowledge sharing
  • executive dashboards

ESS has been deployed for many of the same reasons, especially intranet replacement, application aggregation, expertise location, and knowledge sharing.

External Use Cases

Portal software was deployed externally to provide self-service access to corporate information. In some cases, access to selected application functionality was also provided to key business partners. Retail and B2B portals enabled customers to purchase goods and services online. Process acceleration, revenue growth, and cost reduction were the key business drivers behind nearly all external portal uses.

ESS doesn’t seem to have the same goals. I have seen some, but little, evidence that external communities are being leveraged to accelerate business processes or reduce costs. Peer support communities are a good example of cost reduction via ESS. The goal of most outward-facing ESS deployments seems to be customer engagement that translates (eventually) into increased innovation and revenue for the deploying organization.


ESS deployments today strongly resemble portal projects that were undertaken ten years ago. Few, if any, ESS deployments have been enterprise-wide. Instead, ESS is deployed to many of the same department and functional groups, to support the same business processes, and to drive many of the same business results as portals were a decade ago (and still are.)

What does this commonality with early portal deployments mean for ESS? I will examine that in my next post. Until then, I would love to hear your reaction to what I have presented here.

Receiving Recognition Also Provides Benchmarks for Improvement

I have been an industry analyst covering collaboration practices, software, and markets since 1999, with the exception of a four year stint as a collaboration consultant at IBM, during which my expertise and opinions were available only to teammates and clients. I returned to a more public analyst role in March 2009 and have been working diligently since then to re-establish the visibility of my thoughts on collaboration, as well as my personal reputation and client base.

In the last three weeks I have received two signs that the hard work is paying off and that I am on the right track. First, I was recognized as one of 21 influential bloggers in an Enterprise 2.0 All-Star Blogger Roster, compiled by Mark Fidelman, VP Sales at MindTouch. While there were several others that I would have suspected to be more influential than me, I was honored to see my name alongside those that were included. I am fortunate to find myself in good company and pleased to be recognized as a thought leader on the topic of Enterprise 2.0.

The second sign that I am making progress toward my personal goals was my inclusion in the Top 50 on the Technobabble 2.0 list of Top Analyst Tweeters. Technobabble 2.0 took the SageCircle Analyst Twitter Directory, which includes the names of over 750 registered analysts, and ran it through a ranking tool established by Edelman called TweetLevel. The tool’s underlying algorithm assigns scores for Influence, Popularity, Engagement, and Trust — all key ingredients for success as an industry analyst. I was ranked as the 48th most influential analyst and received a higher score for Engagement than nine out of the top ten analysts. What makes this so meaningful to me is the comprehensiveness of this list, not only in terms of the number of analysts covered, but also in the breadth of areas of specialization represented. To be ranked that highly among this broad set of peers is an accomplishment of which I am very proud.

I do not intend to rest on my laurels after receiving this recognition. Instead, I will use the inclusion on these lists as a benchmark from which I can set new goals and raise my performance as an industry analyst. There is definitely room for improvement in terms of Influence and, especially, Trust, which is the one attribute that matters most to me. If my readers and clients trust me, then I will be able to influence them in a positive manner. Trust is built by repeated engagement with readers and followers that provides them with valuable, unique insights about collaboration, enterprise social software, and content management. Some of my related goals for 2010 are to increase the number of people who regularly read my analysis and to more actively engage in open discussions with them. By doing that, I will earn their trust and the privilege of helping them.

I congratulate all my peers that were included in one or both of these lists. These analysts — mostly working at small firms, or as sole practitioners — have demonstrated that blogging, tweeting, and other Web-based forms of self expression can influence the producers and buyers that comprise software markets. The power of larger analyst firms that charge customers high prices for subscriptions to research, or purchases of individual reports, has been eroded by free (or low-cost), Web-based content channels. Market information should be available to everyone, not just those that can afford it. I am glad that my work, and that of my peers, is helping to make it so.