An Agile Approach to Data-Driven Decision Making: Using Storytelling to Drive Action

Download PDFOrganizations everywhere are racing to become digital and embed data in decision-making. More and more money is being invested every day in technology and staff resources to do this work. However, it’s becoming apparent that just investing money in these areas isn’t effective. In fact, Randy Bean and Tom Davenport titled their February 2019 Harvard Business Review article, “Companies are Failing in Their Efforts to Become Data-Driven.” The research they cite from NewVantage Partners didn’t say, “What’s needed is more data,” or “Companies need to buy more sophisticated technology.” Instead, these results state that people AND process are the number one obstacle.

What do you need to do to sidestep these challenges and strengthen your role? You can:

  • Bring a step-by-step, data-enabled, decision-making process to a team or project so they don’t get paralyzed by data or keep requesting more of it.
  • Help others find valuable business insights hidden within data.
  • Demonstrate how to communicate insights from data through a story in order to move people to make a decision and take action faster.

This two-day course uses engaging templates and instruction to impart the best practices for making this happen. After all, facts tell; stories sell. The experiential course provides an in‐depth approach to embedding data in decision-making that everyone in an organization can understand and use. This process ensures that the right business question is being addressed so stakeholders get what they need in a timely manner to make important decisions that spark immediate action.

The lessons in this course support and expand on the techniques in the IIBA’s Global Thought Leadership white paper, “Business Analysis in the Data Science Age: Driving Industry Transformation”. Students will practice the techniques as they learn, using an actual data set from your organization. We also encourage students to bring their own projects to class. Instructions and templates for engaging in this work with others are provided.

Learning Objectives

After this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe why data cannot effectively be collected or a dashboard created without knowing the specific intended “use” of the data.
  • Determine what is most important for key stakeholders when they request data.
  • Ask the right questions so individuals and teams do not get stuck in data analysis and paralysis.
  • Work in an agile manner with individuals and teams to reveal three kinds of insights within a data set.
  • Strategize with individuals and teams on which insights are the most important to relay, how to do so, and with whom to share them.
  • Determine which stories best embody the insights that need to be communicated to stakeholders for decision-making.
  • Create a story-based presentation that sparks action and follow through.

Course Instructor: Lori Silverman

Every time radio and TV hosts interview Lori about her book, Stories Trainers Tell, they ask: “Can story be used for more than training?” This motivated her to spend three years scouring the world to uncover successful applications for Wake Me Up When the Data Is Over. When the Dummies series called, she and Karen Dietz, PhD authored her third bestseller, Business Storytelling for Dummies, solidifying her thought leadership in the field.

One chapter blossomed into a unique framework for finding actionable insights in data and storifying them. This, combined with earlier career experiences consulting to Chevron, Valmet, Rhone Poulenc, the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and others, on shifting enterprise culture to embed data into decision-making, grew her prominence in helping individuals, teams, and organizations become data literate.

As the founder of Partners for Progress®, Lori also helps firms strategize about their future and navigate through messy, complex change. She’s worked across 25 industries, with firms like BMW Financial Services, McDonalds, Target, Bechtel, GE, and Phillips North America. As a keynote and workshop speaker at more than 80 events (including PM/BA Conferences in Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia), Lori’s inspired thousands of people to take action. She’s an adjunct professor in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology Master’s program at Golden Gate University.

Course Outline


  • Activity: What is this data telling you?
  • Identify the ultimate goal of collecting data.
  • Learn a framework for moving from data to action and insight that includes three types of insights.

Starting Out

  • Activity: Outline context questions for a data set.
  • Learn outcomes of each framework step and the core questions to prompt movement through the steps.
  • Activity: Categorize context questions.
  • Identify business value question and/or need.
  • Discuss why intuition is a source of data and how to blend it with qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Activity: What is the business value question for this data set?
  • Activity: Assess your own situation.

Getting to Actionable Insight

  • Learn to use the framework to move from making sense of to getting meaning from the data.
  • Activity: What do you see?
  • Discuss what an insight is and is not, and what is needed for insight to happen.
  • Learn techniques to help others generate three different types of insights, including the role of data visualization.
  • Activity: Identify insights for a data set.
  • Activity: Assess your own situation.

Fundamentals of Story

  • Activity: What makes a story memorable.
  • Discuss brain research and why insights need to be humanized through a story.
  • Define story, the traditional story structure, and the characteristics of a story.
  • Activity: Assess this story.
  • Distinguish between stories and other forms of narrative (e.g., anecdotes, case studies, descriptions, examples, etc.).
  • Activity: What type of narrative is this?
  • Activity: What I need to focus on for growth.

Evoking Stories

  • Delineate how to evoke stories using story prompts and where story prompts can accelerate moving from data to insight to decision/action.
  • Outline how to listen to stories you prompt.
  • Activity: Practice listening to a story and fleshing out its meaning.
  • Discuss what to do and not do after you hear a story.
  • Outline how to evoke stories using story triggers.
  • Activity: Using story prompts and triggers to flesh out the business value question with stakeholders.
  • Activity: Assess your own situation.

Moving from Insights to Story

  • Determine which insight(s) are most important to communicate and who they should be communicated to.
  • Activity: Determine most important insight and audience from a data set.
  • Discuss what to do when an insight is too sensitive to communicate directly.
  • Identify how best to communicate the insight — story trigger, story prompt, tell a story — and the role of influence, timing, and presentation.
  • Activity: Assess your own situation.

Crafting Stories

  • Identify story structures that tend to work better with insights derived from data.
  • Overview the steps for crafting a story from an insight.
  • Activity: Craft the insight story and present it.
  • Activity: Assess your own situation.

4 reviews for An Agile Approach to Data-Driven Decision Making: Using Storytelling to Drive Action

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  1. Liz D

    I attended a two-day workshop run by Lori ahead of a PMO Conference in London in June 2018 in which she taught us the value of ‘freeing the story from the data’ in order to move people to action. Thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and subsequently had an oppor-tunity to use the learning in helping a Corporate Client present their Annual IT Budget proposal to their Executive Funding Committee in a way that really told the story rather than overwhelming them with IT facts and figures. Highly recommend her DIKUW Framework as a way to galvanise action.

  2. Ivana C.

    Lori is a truly captivating speaker. Her talent in translating data-driven business insights through captivating stories is remarkable. Learning her methods has helped me to relate my clients business data needs to actionable BI/AI projects. An excellent investment all around!

  3. Jason G.

    Thank you for your inspiration! Attending your data storytelling work-shop has helped me better structure presentations and project reports leading to more senior leadership buy-in for project funding, decisions, and success. Making data impactful and not boring. Personally, it helped me kick off a morning writing routine. Which allowed me to improve the way I incorporate data (statistics, accounting, analytics) into my EMBA course work, reports, and assignments.

  4. Christopher M.

    I attended one of Lori’s workshops in Chicago. It is one of the best learning experiences I have had. I have been able to use her story techniques to help plan and gain greater involvement and support for strategy and projects. I highly recommend attending her workshops, speaking engagements, and reading her books.

data driven decision making
Request Onsite
Length 2 days
CDU/PDU 14 hours
Intended Audience

This course is designed for business analysts, project managers, systems analysts, data analysts, digital analysts, enterprise data managers, and other project team members that engage in business analysis/analytics as a part of their work. This course is also appropriate for individuals who manage or mentor business analysts and anyone who works with data in the enterprise.

Prerequisites None

Course List

(4 customer reviews)

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