Strategy = Execution

The 10 Principles of Data analysis and Innovation (Both hard and soft)

The 10 Principles of Data analysis and Innovation (Both hard and soft)

  1. Structure your data
    1. Otherwise you will spend unnecessary time recovering and cleaning Larger organizations can’t do without a data manager.
  2. Clean your data
    1. Make sure your data are clean, recent and based on a single time point/period. Remove any outliers, data entry errors, exceptional circumstances, etc. Save annotated scripts so others can reproduce your analyses.
    2. Check the basics: data volume, variety, speed and uncertainty. Refresh as often as possible.
  3. Zoom out
    1. Preferably level up from your main interest. In other words, don’t go for a quick fix. Scribbling numbers ‘on the back of an envelope’ might be useful as a fast check, but it is not the real deal. Take your time and make solid calculations. Include every variable in your calculations as a variable; don’t hide them in assumptions.
    2. Innovate by looking at the chain as a whole plus the wider context. Assess the impact on all partners in the chain, as this may be exactly where there’s room for innovation.
  4. Start with the end in mind
    1. Keep an eye on the goals and the business case that this data analysis serves. Focus primarily on the data that affect output, and less on data affecting input or throughput (unless these are early indicators).
    2. Check for relevance: (1) If the data don’t cause a change of direction, they don’t matter; (2) Analyze pertinent data only. If data do not directly impact a process, they are not pertinent.
    3. Every analysis should be carried out in tandem by both a data analyst and a user.
  5. Collect targeted data. Too often supply drives demand
    1. Base your analysis on your hypothesis, but leave room for
    2. Define ‘known unknowns‘. Talk to employees to uncover issues and bottlenecks that could be solved by using data. Also, talk about ‘unknown unknowns‘. Part of the value of data is latent; create a context of varied, coherent data that can accommodate possible future or external data.
    3. Ask for a second opinion from an experienced data scientist, even at the earliest stages of the innovation process, for example for strategic priority setting.
  6. 1st-order data analysis: Be disciplined in your analysis (and watch out for bias)
    1. Guard against confirmation bias, stay open to all outcomes. Hypotheses are necessary to narrow the scope, but should not color your judgement. ‘Presumptions are the mother of all evil’.
    2. Validate your results. Do a sanity check: evaluate whether the result can possibly be true and if not, why not (see Principle #1). What happens if you change the input? Explore the extremes. Include every single variable, check every single assumption, use estimates. Consult more than one source, expert and so on.
  7. 2nd-order data analysis: look for interdependence
    1. The power of big data resides not in key figures (0th dimension) or data sets (1st dimension), but in complex predictive, classification or explanatory models. Focus on the essentials ‘before the comma’. Don’t spend too much time optimizing data models. Leave that to Kaggle.
  8. Set time apart for thorough reporting
    1. Discuss your results with peers from various disciplines. Chuck your analyses in a corner, meditate for an hour, then take an empty mind map or piece of paper to write down the top 3 conclusions based on the problem you’re trying to solve. What comes to mind? These conclusions lead to recommendations. Use the Minto pyramid to write from your client’s POV, align with them. Think first, write later.
  9. 50% of your output = visual management
    1. Implement organization-wide best visualization practices. Set the bar high, because this is what people see. Aim high, set ‘first time right’ as your standard.
  10. Use high-quality modern tools
    1. Ignore legacy systems. Python/R, Power BI, SAS, etc. And the classic: SPSS.

Strategy = Execution. Improve, Renew and Innovate Faster

How can organizations make strategy execution their number one priority? And improve, renew and innovate faster? This I describe in my book Strategy = Execution. Strategy = execution is based on the research that Turner started years ago into the success factors of strategy execution and innovation. We interviewed 60 directors and professionals and analyzed more than 75 cases, 300 relevant books and articles.

  • More about Jacques Pijl (author) and Turner Consultancy
  • The most popular interventions based on Strategy = Execution
  • 24 endorsements from organizational leaders
  • American management book of the year 2021, no. 1 in the category of strategic management, in the top 100 bestseller, seventh edition, translated into: English, German, Spanish, Russian and Indonesian.
  • Selection of the most important management books according to CEOs of innovative organizations (FD New Champions). Included in library of classics (
  • Nominated for Management Book of the Year.
  • Countless articles and interviews in FD, Emerce, Frankwatching and CFO.
  • Numerous Ted Talks and in-company workshops at the top 25-50 organizations, average rating 8.7.


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