All businesses go through cycles where activity is high, and everything seems to be a priority. Along those lines, the occasional “hot” insights project is inevitable and even expected. However, in my previous lives before joining Nucleus, I often came across corporate cultures that almost make an art form of this, where every request is a last-minute exercise, and all due yesterday.
Chronic fire drills cause several long-term issues, including burn-out (yes…pun intended), employees feeling under-valued and ultimately their work quality will suffer. Not to mention being able to read your colleague’s pulse by simply glancing at their forehead. This is often the result of poor planning at some level. As it pertains to insights and research, the research partner may be brought into the process too late to make a difference, may be given insufficient context about the nature of the overall project or unrealistic assumptions were made regarding the timeline, budget, and scope of the insights project.
One of the easiest ways to minimize research fire-drills is by engaging your insights partner as early in the project planning process as possible – it is never too early. Your research partner will appreciate being in the loop and be better positioned to contribute to the overall success of the project. In addition, your research partner will help set reasonable expectations around cost, scope and timing. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out how to force a 4–6-week project into a 2-week window, which will very likely have cost and quality implications. Not to mention, it likely will create a lot of unnecessary stress in the process for everyone.
Another helpful practice is to provide your research partner with as much context about the project as possible. Keeping project details “secret” can lead an insights partner to propose the wrong methodology or tactic for what is truly needed. By understanding the broader project background, the stakeholders that will be using the research results, how success is being measured and the business questions that need to be answered, your research partner can design a study with the right methodology to get the information you need in a timely manner and with the appropriate amount of rigor.
By employing the above practices, the issue of making unrealistic assumptions will be minimized. Your insights partner should be a trusted, strategic resource to help think through any project trade-offs and “right-size” the approach to satisfy your data and knowledge needs. A relatively smooth project with highly-relevant and timely data/insights for enhancing your decision-making should be the result when engaging your research partner early and fully. You may even get a little credit for giving that vein on your research partners’ foreheads a bit of a rest!