Executive Dashboard Tip: The Elevator Ask

by Jim Cain

I had a very enjoyable lunch last week with a few technology executives, where the focus of our discussion was on creating dashboards and reports that the CEO will want to read (one of my favorite topics).

We were talking about different approaches to initial dashboard builds for a CEO, and all the approaches were totally different (and effective with the right kind of person).  One concept was around building all the key data points that any executive would want to see, so that they can easily put together their own dashboard.

Another (not from me, but similar to what we do in the Analyst Program) was around building an initial dashboard after an interview, knowing that it isn’t 100% correct, but also knowing that the recipient would give much better feedback on a deliverable than they would on a concept.

My contribution was on a question I often ask with new clients, or prospects who are looking at a Napkyn analyst as a potential addition to their team.  I call this question “The Elevator Ask”, and it’s just a simple variation of the dreaded elevator pitch.

As I run a young and aggressive business, I get asked for my elevator pitch all the time.  For anyone who hasn’t heard the term before, it works like this:

The reason that the elevator pitch is so entrenched in business is because it’s both a fantastic exercise in refining your value proposition as well as a way to ensure that you aren’t wasting anyone’s time when you describe your company.Pretend that you are in an elevator with someone who could assist your business.  You have to effectively describe your business and your value proposition before the elevator door opens, or lose an opportunity to get value from this person.

This approach works equally well with The Elevator Ask in helping figure out what to put on the CEO’s dashboard.

Pretend that you need to rush out of the office, and you are going to be gone for a week.  You jump into the elevator, and all your senior managers happen to be in there with you.  What questions would you ask them to answer before you hit the ground floor?

Sometimes the answers to this question are surprising, and sometimes they prove to be incorrect over time when delivering an ongoing performance report.  Most of the time, however, you are given some great insights that will allow you to do analysis that will be read, valued and used to move the business forward.

Give it a shot, and please share your feedback with us.


Jim Cain

Founder and CEO, Napkyn Analytics

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