The Governance Gauntlet
You’ve been told that your information management project needs governance. Maybe you’ve even formed a governance committee. However, what is governance, anyway? If you’ve been in organizations for a while, you’re likely indoctrinated into the theory of control; however, that’s not what governance is about. Still, you must have governance, or you’ll end up with chaos. How do you tame the mythical siren of governance to guide your users to safety and your organization to value?
The Roots of Governance
Governance isn’t about control. Anyone who has ever been a child knows that parents can’t control their children – nor can organizations control the behavior of their employees, partners, and customers. The best that you can hope is to guide them to the right paths. The root of governance isn’t in control, it’s in guiding, like the way a rudder steers a ship.
Governance is about identifying which things are the safe and desirable behaviors with your information system and making those behaviors easier to do while making it harder to do things that aren’t good. It’s about putting up guard rails around the places that people shouldn’t go and paving paths to the places you want them to be. Effective governance doesn’t eliminate the possibility that people will do things that make information harder to manage – it just discourages it.
Once you (or your governance team) have discovered the behaviors you want, it’s about creating training, productivity aids, and automation to support those behaviors. If you want more or better metadata, how do you make that process easier?
The Rocks of Chaos
If you don’t steer – or govern – users to the right behaviors, then you may find your information management ship has run aground on the rocks of chaos. It’s difficult – even with search – to find the information you need if everyone files things without consideration for how others will retrieve or use the information. As information professionals, we know that information is only useful when it can be retrieved, but many users are optimizing the experience for how quickly they can get the task of saving their work off their plate. Governance steers users towards thinking about how the information will be reused and provides the training and tools to turn the idea of retrieval and reuse into a reality.
The challenge with governance is creating an awareness of the value and the urgent need. Here are three quick tips:
- Focus on the user’s perspective of better – In most cases, it’s possible to make the process of doing the right thing easier. Rather than telling the users to do “it,” think about how to make them want “it.”
- More training, productivity aids, and support, fewer consequences – Governance gets a bad rap, because it’s largely not seen as helpful to individuals, and therefore users subvert it. Do the things that make it easier for users.
- More community, less proclamation – Look to invite input and collect consensus. Avoid proclamations of the “right” way to do things and instead focus on how to get the results everyone wants – through a bit of work up front.
If you focus on making the right things easier, you’ll find individual engagement higher and it’s easier to get executive buy-in. If you are effective at governance, you’ll make it easier for you to get your next project on the books since everyone – not just leadership – will appreciate the results everyone is getting.
About Robert Bogue, CIP
Robert Bogue is a father, husband, community leader, and servant with over a dozen years in business. A passionate learner and educator, Robert has editor credit on over 100 books, author credit on 27 books and numerous courses. Robert is also a recovering technologist with 17 years as a Microsoft MVP. He reads and reviews a book each week on non-technical topics, distilling the wisdom of many into a set of discovered truths. His Discovered Truths (http://www.discoveredtruths.com) project teaches everyone in the organization key interpersonal skills through short, engaging videos delivered each week to every employee. You can follow Robert on his blog at http://www.thorprojects.com/blog.