Analytical skills

Denise Kooistra | 19 April 2017

How to improve and maximize your effectiveness

It is a skill often described as a must have on (planning) job descriptions and is named as an essential skill by planning executives. Good analytical skills, which can be defined as the ability to collect and analyze information, problem-solve, and make decisions. Inspired-Talent trainee Maarten Peeters discusses 3 ways to improve this skill and maximize your results.

Tools

In this first part of how to improve your analytical skills I would like to discuss which tools to use and master to improve the effectiveness of your analytical skills. When it comes to tools there really only is one true star for me: Microsoft Excel. Even though many of the bigger companies I have worked at, had implemented ERP systems in place for various business operations, for true data crunching I still rely on Excel. With a data dump from the ERP system or other data I am able to achieve great things. With the right use of formulas, (pivot) tables, charts, macros, conditional formatting and the many more functions Excel has, you are also able to transform raw data to organized overviews on which you and others can make decisions.
Personally I have gained most of my Excel knowledge by building a forecast tool during an internship in my master year. I was lucky enough to have an expert colleague to guide me, but even without his help you can improve. By formal training, books and the many online forums for instance. It is a great investment, because once you are able to use the full potential of Excel this will save you hours on daily tasks. More importantly, it is a great asset to your CV and will make you a much more valuable (potential) employee!

Visualize and present data

In part 1, I discussed mastering Excel to improve your analytical skills. Instead of focusing again on techniques and tools, in this blog I will focus on how to get your message across. After all, you can make great analyses, but as long as you cannot convince stakeholders of your opinion or the decision to be made, these analyses cannot drive change and therefore have little to none impact. Whether you have to give a presentation, send an email or any other means, I ask myself the next two questions:

What is the result I like to achieve?
Who will I be presenting to?

The first question is probably the reason to perform the analysis in the first place. However, I have found it important to keep this in mind and not to wander off into too many (new) side topics that may arise from your analysis. Less really is more here. So for multiple smaller wins over one bigger win. The second question is important for the form and way in which you present. For example, presenting to direct colleagues or experts might ask for a very different approach than presenting to management. Whereas the first two groups are likely to be interested in technical, in-depth information, management might require the information in key points, clearly stated and/or visualized. This question also required you to think on the knowledge the stakeholders have on this topic. These two simple questions have proven of great value to me.

Feedback

With the first two steps completed you have basically proven you can collect and analyze information, problem-solve, make decisions and convince others. Basically, you have good analytical skills. However, there is always room for improvement and for that reason part 3 is about feedback. The simple reason I know the two questions in part 2 work is because I have asked people for feedback. Feedback can be the driving force behind maximizing your results as you become aware of the improvement opportunities.

Asking for feedback will most likely be uncomfortable at first, as it requires an open, constructive and trustful environment. Once you get acquainted to receiving and giving feedback it will become part of everyday work and you will notice the improvements. For me there are three key questions when it comes to asking for feedback. From whom? When? And how?

From whom? The obvious answer here is to have feedback sessions with your manager. If it is not already part of your private meetings, ask for it. If you are a manager reading this, I recommend suggesting this to your employees. It is a great opportunity to ask for feedback on your own performance as well. Do not stop here, ask your colleagues as well and even reach out to customers or suppliers/customers. They all have valuable insights that might help you in different situations, which leads us to the next point.

When? Go beyond just having yearly or monthly feedback meetings. Ask feedback after an important presentation (of your analyses) or about a project you participated in. A young professional in sales recently told me that after each meeting with a customer, she does a feedback session in the car with her colleague. There are endless possibilities.

How? The Harvard Business Review wrote a great article on this. The article highlights five points that increase your chances of hearing the truth. Remember that giving good feedback might be just as hard or even harder than receiving feedback.

Be clear that you want honest feedback
Focus on the future
Probe more deeply (be specific)
Listen without judgement
Write down what they say

There is a lot more to be said on receiving feedback but with these points in mind you will be able to receive better feedback from more people, more often. With that in place you will be able to maximize your (analytical) performance.

Expertise and Trackrecord

To guide our Supply Chain and Logistic talents at our best, we use our years of expertise in the field of Supply Chain Management and related areas. Our expertise variates from S&OP to operations; from production to distribution; from storage to transport; from buying to Supply Chain Finance.

We have one of the largest and most influential international networks in logistics and Supply Chain Management. Besides the functional match between employer and employee we think that the cultural fit is just as important. This way we know how to achieve long lasting relationships with our clients. That’s why our pay-off is ‘’Beyond the match.’’ We go a step further in the selection of the right candidate.

Inspired?

Didn’t find the right candidate for the job yet? Then you’ve come to the right place. Finding the right Supply Chain professionals for your organization is our expertise. Get in touch with us as soon as possible, so we can immediately get to work.

Call Marielle van Gastel 0613960030 or mail Marielle van Gastel marielle@inspired-careers.com