Habit #4 – Think Win-Win

This is my favorite of the habits, as it is at the core of any great team. In Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s Book, Business Secrets from the Bible, Lapin repeatedly states that the purpose of business is to serve the needs of others. After all, if you aren’t serving the needs of anyone, then you have no customers and won’t be in business very long. To illustrate this, he talks about neighboring farmers, each of whom works independently and provides for all of their own needs. One day, they begin to travel to each other’s farms, only to discover that each has a superior skill to the other’s in a specific category. One has better milk producing cows, and one has better sheep and wool production. Each realizes that by putting their efforts towards what they are best at, and trading with their neighbor for what their neighbor is best at, provides both farms with the best goods without undue burden on either. In essence, each one specializes in a specific area where they excel. This is the basis of win-win. By collaboration, both parties come out ahead. You see this every day in team sports. In football, you never see an offensive lineman practicing his throwing arm by throwing deep to the team’s starting wideouts. Conversely, you don’t see quarterbacks lining up on the 7 man sled to practice blocking, either. It’s not in the team’s best interest for every player to try to learn every position. There simply isn’t enough time to teach them – nor is playing every position something each player is built to do both mentally and physically.

Unfortunately, in the business world, we far too often fail in understanding who our teammates are and who our competition is. People look at their peers as competition for the next promotion, and backstab them when they should support them. Teams jostle for key projects and budget as their management push agendas that serve their career goals and aspirations. Neither is helpful to the company as a whole, and in fact, is exceedingly detrimental. At the end of the day, your competition isn’t the people within your company – it’s the other companies vying for your market share! Teams and companies that can learn to think win-win can excel where others fail, simply because when both parties know they receive more than they are putting in, everyone works a little harder. Further, when time isn’t wasted politicking inside of the organization, each business unit becomes more efficient. This leads to better profitability, bonuses, and higher pay – which sounds like a win to me!

For data workers, perhaps the most common instance of this is the relationship between the data creators and the data consumers. Whether it’s the source DBA and the ETL team, or the ETL team and the Analytics team, or the Analytics team and the business end users, each step of the data flow is going to create conflict when you do not have a synergized team of individuals who are willing to think win-win. For example, how many times have you seen a developer shoehorn in a “temporary” solution for an “emergency” business need, only to find that same shoestring approach still in operation five or even ten years later? If both parties were thinking win-win instead of the business demanding a solution right now, then the developer could’ve create a more maintainable (and likely far more robust) solution that the requestor ever envisioned. I see this all the time between ETL and analytics teams, with the ETL team designing their code for quickest ETL performance, and suboptimal report performance. A prime example of this would be the overuse of codes within the warehouse without the associated decodes occurring. It always amazes me when a developer asks, “Can’t you decode it in the report?” Of course I can – but then the decode runs for all 10 billion records for every time a business end user uses that decode for a filter or group by, pulls it into temporary disk space, and then does a full text search of the temp table from there. That’s not the hallmark of efficiency – doing on a daily basis thousands of times what the ETL job only has to do once (and even then, only on the daily delta records rather than the full table). Another common example would be when the source DBA refuses to add in an index which would make the ETL processing time a tenth or less of what it is today. In both cases, not only are the immediate parties affected, but downstream data workers and consumers are as well. By thinking win-win, and trying to serve their customers, each team can create a better product. This should be second nature – it’s a shame it is so uncommon.

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