Information Management for Communication & Decision-Making

Before Worrying About Analysis – Lets Optimize Information First

The 5 I’s of Information Management


Never before have we had so much information, yet never before has knowledge been so elusive.

One of the challenges in business, military and sport today is separating data, information, knowledge and wisdom. While people jump straight into complex statistical analysis with data many make basic errors with information. Proper management of information by people in leadership positions is critical to any organization.

Firstly, all staff are experts of some nature and the best leaders are both aware of this and empower these staff. It may be local tribe knowledge for a military unit, customer knowledge specific for a sales team in a region or position specific knowledge for a sport. They have expertise and domain specific experience that even leaders don’t have and can’t be taken for granted.

All of these are personal and relational interactions which rely on hard information, data, previous experience to make decisions. This is very different from a manufacturing process based on hard data which is infinitely more predictable.

Never before have we had so much information, yet never before has knowledge been so elusive.

Leadership and coaching at any levels is an art not a science – if it was, someone would have an “App for that”.

The effectiveness of expertise is based on a flow of information. A great leader or coach with poor or incorrect information will be ineffective.

There are five principles for information management I’ve used for years to support information flow, communication and decision-making in applied high-pressured settings.


You need instant data and information to make proper informed decisions. In sport for example, finding out 4 hours after breakfast that a player reported a tight hamstring when he came in is no good if your star player is lying on the trainer’s table with 2 lbs of ice strapped to his hamstring! Of course, information must be accurate, but in today’s world the speed of data impacts decisions greatest. We can argue over whether the chicken or egg comes first, or get information to the expert on the ground fast and empower them.


You need to have all the data from each domain integrated and at your fingertips when you need it. In sport, having a players body weight going up without the nutritionists bodyfat scores alongside it or knowing what dietary plan he is on means you are unable to draw proper conclusions. Data out of context or without a reference can be misleading. Of course occasionally we don’t have the complete context or all the data, but fast integrated information with relevant context beats a perfect analysis late. Never provide isolated information without some supporting contextual information to allow informed decision making.


Only present the necessary important information – not ALL the data. Presenting all the data is lazy and time wasting for the coach must wade through it to decipher the relevant information. Only present as much information as is necessary – not as much as possible. Always have the rest of the information ready if called on but start with the important information first. If you think that presenting as much information as possible is wise you are mistaken. In many cases you simply are confusing the user and perhaps distracting them from the most pertinent issues.


This goes both ways, individualized for the subject and individualized for the person getting the information. Some people respond best to one-pagers, some to charts, some to verbal. Knowing your audience is essential. The day of treating everyone the same for optimal team performance is long gone. Every customer, athlete or person must be considered as an individual as well as within the team context in order to perform optimally. Therefore data must be individualized and presented on an individual basis so that the players can be treated as individuals.


Presenting the data to coaches (and players) must be done in a manner that is easily understood. This is one area the better leaders understand instinctively. In professional sport the majority of players and most coaches need data that can be digested fast. It must grab their attention first and be easily understood. Remember in most cases you won’t get the chance to stand over their shoulder and explain it to them. Two important tips to master this is – firstly observe how they respond to each report or piece of information and note which they caught their attention the best. Secondly, carefully note how they present data to you. If they present information in a very factual data driven way, reciprocate. If they are more descriptive – again replicate this approach when providing information to them.

After an event recently a coach asked me what the most important skill for a performance director was. I replied communication. It doesn’t matter if you have the best ideas if you can’t communicate even basic information. These 5 I’s, while seemingly straightforward, will be a very good guide for helping you communicate optimally.


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