The Winds Of Change

Just as knowing the direction of the wind is important if you are a pilot, gauging the sentiment of your organisation towards your Data Governance Programme while you are implementing it is vital.

The times of predicting the weather using seaweed are long gone and these days meteorologists have a wide range of increasingly sophisticated tools available to them to forecast the weather. Data governance practitioners do not have a vast array of tools available to help them do their job, but there are some simple devices which can help you greatly when implementing data governance. One such tool is a weather vane. In meteorological terms a weathervane is a mechanical device attached to an elevated structure which rotates freely to show the direction of the wind. The data governance version is less mechanical, but nonetheless rotates freely to show the direction of feeling towards your data governance project. Do not underestimate the usefulness of this simple tool. If the prevailing sentiment is positive, this could indicate that it is a good time to tackle some of more challenging activities on your plan. If things are not looking so good, you need to know so that you can take remedial action quickly.

Having grasped the value in having a data governance weathervane, I'm sure you are wondering where you can buy one. If only it were that easy! Sadly it is not something you can simply purchase, install and immediately start reaping the benefit of. However the good news is that you already have one, you just have to find it. You see my version of the weathervane is a person and not just any person. The value in having such a device is only realised if you have identified the correct person. Let me explain...

Usually my weathervane is a fairly senior person, often a data owner or data steward but never someone who was an immediate supporter of my data governance activities (such a strong supporter would be no good as they will tend to pass on only good feedback to you). Equally someone who is resisting your efforts is not useful, as they will only tell you what is going wrong (whether perceived or actually). The person you want is someone that you've had challenging conversations with initially, but has eventually been persuaded to see the value in data governance. Such a person makes a perfect weathervane. If you are doing the right things at the right pace and communicating well, they are likely to feel comfortable with what you are doing. If things are not going so well (or as I usually find is the case - I haven't communicated how things are going for a while) then they will start getting twitchy and its time for you take some action.

One important thing to note is that although it is obviously important to maintain a good relationship with your weathervane, it is equally (if not more so) important to build good relationships with the people around your weathervane. These people are often your early warning alarm. When you bump in to someone and they tell you that Joe is getting worried about data governance or is wondering what he has to do next, you get a very good indication of which way the wind is blowing and you can take appropriate action. If Joe tells you he is worried himself, then it is imperative that you find out what is worrying him and take action promptly. If your weathervane is worried the chances are that others also have concerns, but just havent told you.

In my experience, my weathervane usually highlights that with progress being slow (as is often the case with any business change initiative) there has been nothing concrete for me to communicate and so being wrapped up in numerous other activities, I havent thought to communicate anything. Someone who is not 100% comfortable with what you are doing will take the silence or lack of communication as worrying, whereas your most positive of supporters will realise that you are engrossed in your work and will assume that unless theyve heard to the contrary that everything is going well.

So what are you waiting for? Identify your weathervane and find out in which direction your data governance wind is blowing!

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