McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 3

McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 3: Overview and full issue

This issue of the Quarterly, available here as a PDF download, explores how leaders can build a corporate culture in harmony with analytics efforts, suggests how to unleash agile teams, and discusses the importance of maintaining employees’ health and well-being.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 3 (PDF–4MB).

Data is a double-edged sword. It’s fueling new business models and transforming how companies organize, operate, manage talent, and create value. It also poses risks: data-security questions, privacy concerns, and uncertainty about ethical boundaries are unavoidable. For leaders, the ability to seize the potential of advanced analytics, while simultaneously avoiding its hazards, is becoming mission critical.

Those leaders shouldn’t try to go it alone. Their people and organizations can be powerful allies—or barriers to progress, even sources of trouble. Tools and rules are helpful enablers, but empowering people to make the most of advanced analytics requires something deeper: a corporate culture that’s acutely aware of data’s growing importance and of the need to be both bold and alert to danger.

“Data culture” is a relatively new concept. This issue’s cover story, “Why data culture matters,” tackles it through the eyes of six practitioners on the front lines. Representing industries ranging from aerospace and baseball to media, shipping, and banking, those leaders describe how they’re democratizing data, making risk management a source of competitive advantage, and cultivating analytics talent with culture in mind. The article also presents seven emerging takeaways on data culture, distilled by our colleagues Alejandro Díaz, Kayvaun Rowshankish, and Tamim Saleh. We hope their reflections represent the start of a useful conversation that carries over to your organization and stimulates fresh ideas on how to harness the power of advanced analytics responsibly.

The organizational context for many of those efforts will be an “agile” one. As more fluid organizational approaches have taken hold across business, a range of second-order questions have begun to emerge. What does it take to set loose the independent teams that make agile organizations hum? Who manages in an agile organization? And what exactly do those managers do? Our colleagues tackle questions such as these in two articles, “Unleashing the power of small, independent teams” (by Oliver Bossert, Alena Kretzberg, and Jürgen Laartz) and “The agile manager” (by Aaron De Smet).

Keeping the employees we seek to empower healthy and happy is an ongoing priority for leaders—one that has gotten more challenging, according to Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, as the pace of business life has increased and the intensity of our always-on corporate environment has grown. In “The overlooked essentials of employee well-being,” Pfeffer reminds us of two levers—ensuring that individuals feel they have control over their jobs, and providing them with social support—whose importance is supported by reams of academic research; Pfeffer then shows how companies are pulling these levers in creative ways.

The promise is clear: Technology enables organizational innovation. Agile organizations unleash the potential of their people. And those empowered people, in turn, become the backbone of companies that fully exploit—while mitigating the risk associated with—the digital, data- and analytics-driven possibilities before them. As you strive to create this virtuous cycle, pay careful attention to your company’s culture, which can clarify the purpose, enhance the effectiveness, and increase the speed of your efforts to stay on the leading edge.

Download the full issue of McKinsey Quarterly 2018 Number 3 (PDF–4MB).

About the author(s)

Kevin Buehler is a senior partner in McKinsey’s New York office, and Nicolaus Henke is a senior partner in the London office.

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