“Vision without execution is merely hallucination:” how Decision Management was born.

This post is an edited version of an article originally written for The Guardian.

This Einstein quote grounds me. It’s a simple reminder that the job of a business leader is to make her vision real – to decide on tactics and to act based on business fundamentals.


In my interpretation of Albert Einstein’s quote, the premise is that you fully understand:

  • The current state of your business
  • What your business needs to grow
  • Who your target market is
  • What your value proposition is
  • How all this impacts your ability to make money

While these appear to be easy concepts, each requires a sound analytic framework and process map to identify tactics and actions. Focus on the drivers that grow your business and identify only two or three high-impact initiatives that you are confident can be executed with the least disruption.

And always measure your results. The results validate your capabilities and demonstrate credibility. Credibility brings more business and profitable growth.

How I founded Decision Management.

I created this process more than a decade ago, and adapted it over time, to diverse products, businesses and markets.  While it was not called a “Big Data” initiative at the time, it required the mindset, discipline and skills of what we know today is required to execute “Big Data” strategies.

I was part of a profitable financial services business whose market share and earnings were decreasing. The business’ direction required an intense period of discovery and decision-making. Every option was put on the table. We asked ourselves critical questions we needed to answer in order to decide our next steps:

  1. How do our current key programs perform and directly contribute to the business P&L?
  2. How big is our target market and select universe, compared to the total market and customer base?
  3. Do we extend the core features of our products to the majority of our customers?
  4. How do we spend our money and what are the returns on that spend?

As in most businesses, we relied on the (unfortunately) few people that understood the business models and how the business runs “end to end” to derive the insights and numbers we needed.

How data insights helped us.

  • We learned that the majority of our target market was not being selected for our programs.
  • We learned that we should focus spend on existing customers to deepen relationships.
  • We learned that the most effective use of our money was to prevent customer attrition in place of acquiring new customers.
  • We realized that our core competencies were broken.  Our business goals were not aligned across our organization.
  • We had to change the fundamental way in which we executed our business offerings or … we just should not be in the business.

We huddled, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work on selecting and redefining a few key programs that we could execute flawlessly. We analyzed our policies and their impact, created processes across our business functions to check our execution, looked for early indicators of both success and error, listened to customer feedback and measured the specific impact of our actions.  By design, we over-communicated to validate, align, develop and empower our teams with new methods and capabilities.

Then we watched as our customers responded to our offerings – and our business dramatically turned around.

The success of this execution strategy provided us with the “self-funding” to continue to expand our customer base, our product offerings, and the financial discipline that changed the direction of our business.

The guiding principles continue to be: Understand, focus, decide – and act using data-driven processes complemented by experienced business judgment. 


This is the core of what is required today to realize the value of “Big Data” and move beyond hallucination.

Do your Big Data visions lack the sound analytic framework to get past Einstein’s “hallucination”?

What do you need to turn your visions into reality?