Do you speak data? Does your boss? In part three of the Sherlock Holmes and compliance 5-part series, Tom discusses the role of the corporate compliance officer in translating data for decision-makers and provides some tips for making sure you’re understood by those who are less data-savvy.

  • Content from today’s episode comes from a Sloan MIT Management Review article, entitled “Why Your Company Needs Data Translators by Chris Brady, Mike Forde, and Simon Chadwick. Tom uses a Conan Doyle story called The Adventure of the Speckled Band to highlight Holmes’ skill as a data translator and thus introduce today’s topic.
  • In Brady, Forde, and Chadwick’s article, they discuss the disconnect between decision makers and number crunchers – referring to this breakage as the “interpretation gap”. They propose some solutions which can also be very valuable to compliance professionals.
    1. Data Hubris: Despite the large numbers, Big Data isn’t a substitute for some good old-fashioned detailed collection and analysis. Make sure to keep the human element at the center.
    2. Decision-making biases: Overconfidence bias occurs when you believe a process will help you to make a decision. Emotional bias occurs “when the decision maker lets the outside noise influence his decisions.” Make sure to avoid both.
    3. Understanding and speaking the data language: In order to communicate without aggressively reductive translation, use data visualization, process simulation, text and voice analytics, and social media analysis to bring the data to life.
  • Brady, Forde, and Chadwick pose a list of skills they believe a data translator needs in today’s business environment. Tom has adapted the list for the CCO or compliance practitioner.
  1. Sufficient knowledge of the business side to pass the “street cred” test with executive decision makers. This means more than simply being able to read a spreadsheet but understanding your organizations business processes;
  2. Sufficient analytics knowledge – or a willingness and ability to acquire it – to communicate effectively with the organization’s data scientists. As data analytics are not taught or even valued in law school education, if you are a lawyer, you will have to work on this going forward;
  3. The confidence to speak the truth to executives, peers, and subordinates. Hopefully, your organization values and respects your voice as a CCO. If not, you certainly have larger problems than poor data translations;
  4. A willingness to search for deeper knowledge about everything. Look at any great CCO and you will find someone who is infinitely curious;
  5. The drive to create both questions and answers in a form which others in your organization find accessible and, most importantly, useful;
  6. An extremely high sense of quality standards and attention to detail. This is probably a defining quality of most lawyers; and
  7. The ability to engage at a team or organizational meetings without being asked for input. As a CCO or compliance professional, you have to be willing to speak up if something has gone off track.
  • Brady, Forde, and Chadwick end with two techniques which lend themselves to greater CCO communication skills:
    1. Connect with decision makers through questions, not assertions. Using data to setup questions for senior management can allow them to find the answer themselves.
    2. Use data to create compelling stories that can be understood and utilized by readers and viewers.


Why Your Company Needs Data Translators by Chris Brady, Mike Forde, and Simon Chadwick

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