In my notes from our last Data Governance Council Meeting, I commented on the continuing confusion in many organizations on where Governance below the board fits and how it works. I continue to hear questions about "Business" and "IT", how they should get along and contribute to Data Governance.
In my own presentations on Data Governance, I often talk about the "Six Question Every Company Should Ask about Data Governance" and #1 is always
"Do we have a Government?"
And, I often go on to show a top-down hierarchical Governance model and talk about the need for functional and operational charters to define governing powers. But, to be self-critical, I haven't help define the questions that are central to governance; ie, where does it fit and how does it integrate within the organization.
A few months ago a colleague in Germany sent me an interesting white paper called Holacracy. It was long and boring looking so I let it sit on my desk for three months before reading it seriously. The paper, and the Methodology, is the work of a small company called Ternary Software and Holacracy can best be defined as a new method of x-matrix communication and decision-making in a more formalized manner.
There are many aspects of this model that are, in my opinion, hopelessly idealistic in large organizations. But there also some extremely useful ideas that I do think can help large and small organizations to better integrate Data, IT, and even SOA Governance in context to the culture and expectations of "The Business." There are three ideas in this model that I think are especially important to Data Governance:
Double LinkingIntegrative Decision-MakingDynamic Steering
A few excerpts from one of the papers to whet your appetite:
"Double-linking - Circles are not fully autonomous; each circle is linked to the circles above and below it by at least two people who participate in the decision-making of both circles. One of these two people (typically the manager of the business unit or department, called the “lead link”) is appointed from above. The lead link is responsible for representing the needs of the higher-level circle, and is accountable for the lower-level circle’s results. The other person, called the “representative link,” represents the needs of the lower-level circle at the higher-circle meetings.
In this way, Holacracy achieves bi-directional process control by ensuringthat each circle’s decision-making process takes into consideration the needs of its linked (higher-level and lower-level) circles."
"Integrative decision-making - This principle begins with the premise that all perspectives hold some intrinsic value, some piece of the truth. Or as integral philosopher Ken Wilber puts it, “No one is smart enough to be 100 percent wrong.”
Holacracy’s goal is tointegrate perspectives as quickly and effectively as possible. Integrative decision-making is designed to prevent people or teams from overriding an important perspective simply because they don’t see its value. Robertson offers the example of when he nearly crashed his airplane because he ignored the information on the low-voltage indicator. “All the other gauges looked fine to me, so I thought it wasn’t important,” he said. He was nearly dead wrong.
This pattern shows up all the time in modern organizations. With everything moving so quickly, it’s easy to neglect the perspectives of others. Yet, like the voltage indicator, one of those perspectives might hold the key to a more complete picture of realityone that could lead to a more effective and powerful decision, perhaps a crash-preventing decision."
"Dynamic steering - The idea that any decision can be revisited at any time is central to dynamic steering, a practice designed to help organizations learn and adapt quickly in a complex, rapidly changing environment. Essentially, dynamic steering is an agile way of guiding the organization toward its goals by holding an aim in mind, staying attuned to emerging reality and making frequent course corrections along the way."
I had to read this paper a couple of times to get over my own skepticism. Some of Holacracy reads new-age loony and I can imagine some Wall Street razor-elbowed executives using this paper to wipe up dog poop on the sidewalk. But read it again, and then change the names of what this stuff is called and imagine trying some of it, slowly, where you work. I think some of these ideas have the potential to turn the Governance part of DG into a more productive process.
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