Think Fast Service and Operations Leadership

Insight and Action

While leafing through an IDC brief this morning I noticed a couple of references to an “insight team” and an “action team.”  The insight is gathered from analyzing information on trends or other interesting points, such as profitability by customer, profitability by product, revenue retention, etc.  The action team executes on projects and activities prioritized to attack issues and opportunities identified with the “insight.”  It struck me as a useful way of organizing a team or a quick collaboration along the lines of first getting the factual data together, agreeing on the call to action, and then putting a plan together for practical and constructive application.

 There is a great new book by Ric Merrifield entitled Rethink:  A Business Manifesto for Cutting Costs and Boosting Innovation where he makes a similar breakdown in business process analysis that he simply refers to the “what” and the “how.”  Ric has also authored or co-authored articles in the Harvard Business Review on this and similar topics.

It seems apparent to me that this breakdown of what and how naturally occurs because there is a distinctly different skillset required for each activity.  The analytical data miner may not be the best get-it-done person, and the action oriented doer is lost without fact-based priorities.  I can think of people I know of each type and it is difficult for me to come up with a person who can do both really well.

Is it reasonable to structure a team this way?  Is this just over thinking it?

If you have used this approach or if you think it is silly I would love to hear from you.




May 14, 2009 - Posted by | Service and Operations


  1. The question really lies on the type of team members. Do you have a team of rock stars? Who enjoy what they do in which case you set them loose on tasks they are really good at.

    Or do you have a team of career types. Where some members might not be very good at certain things but wants to work on those to pad up their resume. They don’t really love it or am very good at it. They just want to have a nicer resume to get better jobs, better positions, climb the corp ladder.

    The rock star team would work well with the structure you describe above. The other and most typical type — you might just create friction, mistrust amongst team members, and segregation.

    my 2 cents.

    Comment by Jus | May 14, 2009 | Reply

    • I love that insight Justin, a very cool perspective from a real bootstrap entrepreneur! It introduces a new set of issues to the discussion on assessing the team, a healthy and constructive approach, and ensuring that the only objective is team success, not career growth.

      You are an engineer AND a people manager!

      Comment by ThinkWiki | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. I saw this great quote shared by Colin McDonald on LinkedIn: “My favourite line from Rosabeth Moss Kanter was that people hate change, but they love to renovate! Lesson: involvement gains commitment.”

    One of my concerns in having an insight team and an action team is that the best way to have an engaged action team is to have them involved in gathering the insight and reaching the conclusions on what has to be done.

    Comment by ThinkWiki | May 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hey Bryan,
    Great stuff now get you reading list up here. In fact, add one to the list and let me know your thoughts as it is refreshing but challenging my beliefs. “Dr. Deming – The American who taught the Japanese about quality” by Rafael Aguayo. If you can, grab it from the library and let me know what you think.

    Comment by Paul | May 19, 2009 | Reply

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