Start small. Think big.


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Many organizations seem to have a problem getting started with performance improvement programs, initiatives, and projects including embracing business analytics. Is it analysis paralysis or brain freeze or just resistance to change? Why do they not know how to get started? Maybe they are easily distracted.

Distractions due to increased worldwide volatility

There is no doubt that volatility is on the rise, and it results in distractions to an organization. Examples of volatility include changes in consumer preferences, foreign currency exchange rates, commodity prices, etc. New trends contributing to volatility can develop quickly, such as oil dependence, emergence of country economies (e.g., India and Brazil) and instantaneous, Internet-based global communications. Unanticipated shocks can come from occurrences like the Asian tsunami, H1N1 virus outbreak, global economy crisis, Euro currency shocks, and recently, the civil unrest in North African Arab countries. The Internet, global communications, social networks and relaxation of international trade barriers has introduced big, sine wave vibrations and turbulence compared to relatively smooth rises and falls of the past decades.

But is increased worldwide volatility reason enough to not adopt or at least test modern managerial methods including embracing advanced analytics?

Speed to results

I am big fan of rapid prototyping with iterative re-modeling. Executives and managers learn faster through “doing” than from “training.” Rapid prototyping and pilots are quick ways to gain buy-in. Accelerated learning comes in large part because the participants immediately relate to their own organization and its issues and goals. They better understand the problem they want to solve or the opportunity they want to seize. Rapid prototyping helps assure eventual success, gain lessons, and prevent pitfalls

Rapid prototyping and pilots allow participants to recognize in advance what obstructive issues will likely prevail when proceeding with the next iterations. Meaningful discussions and even debates can follow. With rapid prototyping and pilots you make your mistakes early and often rather than later when a system is more difficult to re-design or change.

After a quickly constructed model or test is complete then the lessons learned can be consolidated. Newly identified risks to a successful implementation can be mitigated. This technique also applies to enterprise performance management methodologies like strategy maps, balanced scorecards, customer profitability analysis (with activity-based costing), and driver based budgeting / rolling financial forecasts.

There usually is no standard road map

By using Pareto’s 80/20 rule and a “ready-fire-aim” approach project teams can get a much earlier sense for what their complete system or analytical methods will look like. This can help them determine which alternative plans might be more effective to implement a complete permanent, repeatable, and reliable.

Many organizations over-plan and under-execute. However, there usually is no single standard roadmap to implement a program or project. Getting to the destination is the goal, so it is better to be flexible. Start small. Think big.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Cokins, CPIM
Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and enterprise performance and risk management (EPM/ERM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm located in Cary, North Carolina at Gary is the Executive in Residence of the Institute of Management Accountants (


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