"Did you get the memo?" I asked the salesman behind the counter. He pretended to be helping a customer on the phone and turned away.
"How about you?" I asked the hardware manager. "Do you have any questions?"
"Um," he thought for a minute. "No," he finally admitted.
I checked with a few more people, but no one wanted to comment on what I thought was clearly a masterpiece of research into the very heart and soul of our company's performance for the past three years.
I'm sure you have made line graphs of your company's monthly sales. Who hasn't, right? But have you ever made one for daily sales, then created a 30-, 60-, and 90-day moving average? I did. Then I did the same thing for average transaction size and store traffic.
What about pie charts? Of course you can make a pie chart breaking down your company's sales by department. But have you ever considered breaking down your customer list by ZIP code, with secondary pie charts breaking down each ZIP code by customer type, then tertiary pie charts breaking their sales down by time of day?
I have a tendency to get data-obsessed like this, and sometimes I go a bit overboard.
Once, I used our point of sales system to report every receipt that had an item featured in our sales flier. Then I isolated the sale items vs. the non-sales items and then, yep, I made a pie chart of the information.
Of course I have also graphed sales and margin by salesperson. From those graphs I was able to create more graphs charting each margin relative to each customer's overall annual gross sales.
This particular memo was a combination of line, bar, and pie charts, all connected by common company statistics. Pages one through nine were separate line charts showing daily sales history by department. Pages 10 through 22 were bar charts showing sales by day and by hour.
Pages 23 through 26 were filled with pie charts breaking down monthly sales by customer type. Pages 27 through 39 were where things got juicy: sales margins reported by department and customer type with a few more pie charts that broke down margin by customer ZIP code, age, and hair color.
I think a certain amount of statistical record keeping I do is valuable. By recording data and then analyzing the results for your team, you announce that these statistics are important. The very act of recording them raises their value and, in my experience, leads to everyone taking those statistics more seriously.
Also, mining data can lead to interesting discoveries. For example, my-in-depth examination of the sales flier receipts led to several revelations about the nature of the sale shoppers.
On the other hand, spending hours poring over statistics is sometimes the long way around the barn. I once made a bar chart of cash sales by day of the week going back for three years, all to uncover the amazingly obvious fact that Saturday is the best day for homeowner cash sales.
So moderation is the key. It's important to choose statistics that are at the core of your company's mission and faithfully record those stats. Keep it focused.
Judging by the reaction of the employees to my latest magnum opus, perhaps I hadn't been focused enough this time. Still, I picked up the phone and called the owner. Surely he would understand the valuable information I had presented.
"Oh yeah, the memo," he said. "Lot of stuff in that memo."
"Yes," I said. "If you look at the appendix, you will see..."
"OK, great," he said, cutting me off. "Any of those charts tell us if we're gonna sell more wood this year than last?"
Does no one understand my brilliance?