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Nurturing a Data-Savvy Culture: Building Bridges Between People and Data

Organizations focused on enhancing their operational effectiveness are increasingly recognizing the importance of fostering data-savvy leaders across all sectors.  As organizations grapple with the deluge of data, it's imperative to ensure that they are generating meaningful insights.

While technical solutions may address data management at a surface level, the true value of data lies in the fusion of subject matter expertise with numerical insights. Fostering a culture of data empowered leaders across all departments is an essential strategy for organizational success.

An image of a groups of people interconnected with lines of data

This article explores what it means to have data savvy culture, the positive implications of doing so, and the key components of building one.

Data Savvy: Beyond Literacy to Empowerment

Data literacy refers to the ability to understand, work with, make decisions from, and communicate with data. Data literacy, or data savvy as we will refer to, is one of six data storytelling essentials, along with culture in which the data story in created and shared.

The organizational dynamics around data have undergone significant transformation since 2020. Entities continue to grapple with staffing challenges, escalating burnout rates, financial constraints, and, for some, a decline in public trust. Data has emerged as a crucial asset in navigating these challenges, aiding organizations in making informed resource allocation decisions. As we navigate the complexities of our operational landscape, data will remain a pivotal tool, provided that decision makers throughout the organization possess the requisite skills and access to utilize it effectively.

The exponential growth of data presents a formidable challenge for leaders in organizing, comprehending, and extracting insights from a vast array of sources. Yet, the demand for data literacy skills among non-technical leaders far outstrips the current supply and facilitation of such skills.

In a 2022 report by Forrester, one of the key findings unscored this disparity.

While 82% of decision makers say that they expect at least a basic data literacy from all employees in their department, only 40% of employees say their organization has provided data skills they're expected to have.

That same study shows that when training is offered, it is typically offered to those in traditional data roles. Clearly there is a gap in leader expectations of data literacy and access to training.

While certain organizational spheres may have historically relied on specialized analysts, a holistic data culture permeates every facet of the organization, rather than being confined to a select few individuals.  Leaders proficient in data utilization are empowered to strategically, tactically, and operationally leverage data to drive organizational success.

a healthcare team works collaboratively on a data project

In his recent 2023 book, People and Data, Tom Redman, a well established data journalist, said many things that resonated with me. One thing I like is what he says about the term 'data literacy'.

Redman, says, “I don't like the term data literacy.  Where I grew up 'illiterate' meant 'stupid' and I don't like that connotation applied to people who never had a chance to learn.  Instead, I prefer the term 'data savvy' and it applies to both people and companies”.

I agree that data savvy is a preferrable term. Most leaders are not data illiterate, albeit there may be a need to dust off and sharpen analytic skills. Data savvy is about empowerment.  Most leaders have some modicum of skills, albeit it varied and maybe in need of a bit of upskilling.  Embracing data savvy means equipping organizational decision makers with foundational skills to access and glean insights from the data with which they work.

The Positive Implications of Building a People and Data Culture

In today's dynamic organizational landscape, cultivating a robust data culture is more than just a strategic advantage—it's a fundamental necessity for sustained success and innovation. By focusing on people-first data mindset across all levels of an organization, leaders can help to unlock numerous benefits that directly contribute to enhanced business capabilities as well as engagement.

Empowerment of Employees A people-first data culture empowers employees at all levels of the organization to become active participants in the decision-making process. By providing access to relevant data and fostering a culture of data savvy and transparency, organizations can encourage employees to take ownership of their work, make data-informed decisions, and contribute to the overall success of the organization.

Enhanced Accountability and Transparency  By leveraging data to track key performance indicators and measure progress towards organizational goals, a robust data culture promotes greater accountability and transparency within the organization. Leaders can identify areas of underperformance, allocate resources more effectively, and hold teams accountable for achieving measurable outcomes.

a female members of a decision making team shares her data insights

Enhanced Decision-Making   A strong data culture provides decision-makers with access to timely, accurate, and relevant information, empowering them to make informed choices with confidence. By leveraging data-driven insights, leaders can anticipate market trends, identify emerging opportunities, and mitigate potential risks, leading to more effective and strategic decision-making processes.

Fostering Innovation  A healthy data culture encourages a mindset of continuous curiosity and innovation. By leveraging data analytics organizations can uncover hidden opportunities to improve processes or develop new services that meet evolving customer needs. Furthermore, by embracing data-driven experimentation, teams can quickly iterate and refine their ideas, leading to more innovative outcomes.

Improved Problem-Solving In a data-driven environment, problems are approached with a systematic and evidence-based methodology, rather than relying solely on intuition or anecdotal evidence. By harnessing the power of data analytics and visualization tools, teams can gain deeper insights into complex issues, identify underlying patterns or root causes, and develop targeted solutions that address the core challenges more effectively.

How to Build a People-First Data-Savvy Culture

Building a strong people and data culture is not only essential for organizational success and innovation but also for driving more effective decision-making, problem-solving, and employee empowerment. By embracing a people-first data mindset and investing in the necessary tools, processes, and training, organizations can position themselves for long-term success in an increasingly data-driven world.

To nurture a data-savvy culture, companies can build bridges between people and data in the following ways:

#1 | Leadership and Vision

        1. Setting the tone from the top: Encouraging data-driven leadership

        2. Communicating the value of data savvy across all levels of the organization

#2 | Education and Training

        1. Investing in continuous learning: Providing resources for data literacy

        2. Tailoring training programs to promote practical data skills and applications

#3 | Collaboration and Cross-Functional Integration

        1. Breaking down silos: Fostering collaboration between departments and teams

        2. Promoting interdisciplinary approaches to data analysis and interpretation

#4 | Empowerment and Trust

        1. Empowering employees to engage with data: Building confidence and autonomy

        2. Cultivating a culture of trust and transparency around data usage and insights

LinkedIn Social Tile for: Breaking Down Silos: Fostering a Data Collaborative Culture in Healthcare with Tom Redman and Roseanna Galindo

To learn more about breaking down data silos, check out the this event hosted by the PX Community. Tom Redman, the 'Data Doc', and I chat about "Breaking Down Silos: Fostering a Data Collaborative Culture in Healthcare". (I'll update this post to link to the recording once the date has passed).


Overcoming Challenges and Roadblocks

Building a people-first data strategy presents numerous challenges and roadblocks that organizations must navigate to successfully foster a strong, healthy data culture. By addressing these obstacles proactively, organizations can overcome resistance and create an environment where data-driven decision-making becomes ingrained in the organizational culture.

Addressing Resistance to Change and Fear of Data:  One of the primary challenges in implementing a people-first data strategy is overcoming resistance to change and addressing fear of data among employees. Many individuals may feel intimidated by data or perceive it as a threat to their autonomy or job security. To address this challenge, organizations must invest in comprehensive training and communication strategies to demystify data, build confidence, and foster a culture of continuous learning and experimentation.


Tackling Issues of Data Quality, Accessibility, and Security Another significant challenge is ensuring the quality, accessibility, and security of data within the organization. Poor data quality, siloed data repositories, and inadequate data governance practices can hinder decision-making and erode trust in data-driven initiatives. To overcome these challenges, organizations must invest in meaningful data management practices, implement data quality controls, and establish clear protocols for data access and security.


Managing Cultural Barriers and Promoting Inclusivity in Data Initiatives  Cultural barriers and lack of inclusivity can also pose significant challenges to implementing a people-first data strategy. In some cases, certain departments or individuals may feel marginalized or excluded from data initiatives, leading to resistance or lack of engagement. To address this challenge, organizations must foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice in data-related decision-making processes and promoting diversity in data teams.



In conclusion, while implementing a people-first data strategy presents various challenges and roadblocks, organizations can overcome these obstacles by addressing resistance to change, ensuring data quality and security, and promoting inclusivity in data initiatives. By prioritizing the needs and concerns of employees and fostering a culture of data savvy and collaboration, organizations can unlock the full potential of their data assets, as well as their leaders, and drive sustainable growth and innovation.

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Roseanna Galindo, CCBA, CAVS is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis and a champion for data literacy, the human experience in healthcare, and leaders of volunteers everywhere. Learn more about Roseanna and her blog, The Periscope Insighter, by reading the opening post, Venn The Time Is Right

Roseanna is available for training, keynotes, and executive coaching. Visit for more information or click on the button below to schedule a time to talk. 

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