Balancing inward and outward data to create better collective priority setting

September 8, 2021

The best-led companies thrive on the best-possible priority setting, which becomes attainable when leaders know what data are important and what are not. For this purpose, it is important to create a balance between inward and outward data. What is inward data? Inward data is about improving internal (organizational, systems, data) readiness to scale. What is outward data? Outward data is about understanding customers’ and their networks’ needs. Much of the balance between inward and outward is related to separating your needs from the needs of your team and customers. Problem-solving gets a lot easier when a team, facing a tough situation, can share in the creation and management of the flow* — that delightfully endorphin-rich high feeling you get when you’re doing something right. Integration of inward and outward data is an important analytical step, so the team can begin at the same point they left off. Moreover, when the task becomes too challenging, the team can refer to the rules that worked the last time to sustain continuity.  Measurement against the yardsticks you set (and you only need a few key metrics in each group) is the key to success (and to socializing that success with investors, suppliers, and customers). Keep two to three metrics in each of the inward and outward groups but ensure they are meaningful by consulting with important stakeholders and members of your personal advisory board. Taking this approach can allow each team member to experience and engage with key information about the business as a primary cultural element rather than a dashboard.
FROM INWARD-OUTWARD INTEGRATION TO FLOW Here are some examples of some yardsticks/metrics:
  1. Shared oversight (using design thinking to best apportion tasks and accountabilities)
  2. Minimum number of macro data points (avoid the first in first out mindset)
  3. Constant built-in assessment (personal, team, and company)
  4. Capital + culture (shouldn’t DEI and ESG be pillars of your strategy design?)
  5. Live, Die, Repeat (not just a Tom Cruise film)
Here is what you need for using the right data from the get-go to create ‘flow’:
  1. Avoid diluting brand, product, and capital by finding 2-3 replicable product or service delivery options only
  2. Always be able to communicate the “why?” to the team, network members, and to customers
  3. Know when to tweak and how to document what just worked and what did not
  The inward-outward balance offers a real opportunity to founders aiming to upskill their next layer down of marketing, sales, and other leaders. This balance allows the right and the best business, social and personal metrics to be used in all kinds of settings, particularly in difficult situations or at a funding raise or sales event. The best time to begin thinking about the balance is at the company’s scale-up stage when there is likely the greatest opportunity to solve now for the future.  
*“FLOW” is a term developed by Kotler and Diamandis in their eponymous and highly readable book. This title is part of CEOlabs’ proprietary customizable coaching program, The Inward Outward Balance™ (pending). CEOlabs is an independent coaching and convening company that works with scale-up founders and their funders. 


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