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Data Governance Reflections for a New Year

How often do we grit our teeth to get through the next meeting or milestone without acknowledging our accomplishments and enjoying the progress we have made?

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all always busy. Sometimes it seems like there are just not enough hours in the day and we can never catch up. With data governance commitments, other work commitments, family commitments, travel commitments, and community commitments, it’s difficult to achieve the ever-elusive work/life balance. Sometimes work suffers, sometimes life suffers, sometimes both suffer.

One approach that has worked for me in the past is to combine business trips with family trips. For example, in May, I took my sixteen-year-old son with me to Boston when I was speaking at The Data Warehousing Institute Spring Conference. I worked the first part of the week, and then we spent a long weekend walking the Freedom Trail and watching Red Sox baseball. Also in May, I was doing some training in Seattle, so my husband joined me after the class for a long weekend and we visited some great Washington wineries. Earlier this month, I was scheduled to deliver a keynote presentation at the Wilshire/DebTech International Data Governance Conference in Orlando. Pursuing this work/life balance strategy, I took my fourteen-year-old son, and we tried to have some one-on-one time before the conference. I learned some interesting lessons from that experience.

First, because we were trying to have some free time the weekend prior to the presentation, I found that I was distracted. I was a bit anxious about the keynote so I was having a hard time putting it aside and focusing on my son. I felt almost “guilty” for not putting business first and was struggling to relax. Note to self: put the family part of the trip AFTER the business part next time.

Second, I discovered that my idea of one-on-one time and my son’s idea of one-on-one time were not necessarily the same. I had made an assumption that we would swim, hang out at the pool, read, and check out some of the educational events at nearby SeaWorld. My son had a very simple, very specific idea of one-on-one time with me in Orlando – riding roller coasters.

I don’t know about you, but roller coasters are not a big priority for me at this stage in my life. I have probably only ridden on them two times in the last fifteen years. In Orlando, I ended up riding fifteen times in two days. Did I mention whose idea of one-on-one time prevailed?

The first time we rode, I admit – I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Predictably, as soon as it was over, my son exclaimed, “Let’s go again!” Standing in line, distracted about the data governance keynote and not exactly enjoying this particular mother/son bonding moment, it suddenly hit me: data governance is actually just like the “Revenge of the Mummy” roller coaster!

First, you get onboard and you’re not quite sure what to expect. Maybe you are there as a willing participant, looking forward to an exciting ride. Or, maybe you are there because you were assigned, coerced, or delegated that task. The tracks are not straight or narrow. The terrain is not flat or even. Data governance?

Next, you start off a little slowly, trying to get a sense of where the thing is going. What’s going to come up next? When will we pick up speed? Who is going to yell and scream as we go through this process? Is there still time to get off this thing? What would happen if I did get off the coaster and would that be better or worse than staying on board? Data governance?

Then, you start to climb that big hill. It’s a slow process getting all that inertia up the incline. You’re asking yourself, will we ever get some momentum going? Then, suddenly you’re over the hump and you have LOTS of momentum. People are committed and moving forward. It’s likely too fast for some. For others, it’s too slow. But, through the twists and turns, you keep going. You’re on a roll! Data governance?

Abruptly, you come to a screeching halt. Heads snap, people groan. What’s this about? We were just making great progress and then everything changed? You slide backward and can’t see ahead or behind. You experience fire, heat, water, screaming, crying, and nausea (oops, sorry . . . maybe that was just the roller coast, not data governance). What should I expect? Where am I? Where is this thing taking me? Suddenly, you spin around a few times and you’re back to full speed. More twists and turns and then you’re at your destination…at least for that moment or milestone. “Let’s go again!” Data governance?

Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the year – a common time to take a few moments to reflect on the past year. Or maybe it’s because I had a great time in Orlando and am ready to embrace the changes and challenges of 2008. Maybe it’s because I decided not to just close my eyes and wish for the roller coaster ride to be over. Perhaps my choice to enjoy the next fourteen rides with my son with my eyes wide open influenced my thinking. Regardless, this is what I walked away with relative to data governance initiatives: How often do we grit our teeth to get through the next meeting or milestone without acknowledging our accomplishments and enjoying the progress we have made? Do we focus on all the things that didn’t work out versus the things that did? Are we willingly and enthusiastically accepting the opportunity to be part of an important and exciting ride, or are we begrudging and unwilling passengers on a project that we hope will be “done” soon?

Data governance initiatives are full of ups and downs, surprises, fears, and potential exhilaration. Because they typically involve people attempting to work together in some cross-functional manner, they are frequently unpredictable. Your choices lie in whether you decide to embrace the unpredictable twists and turns with a positive attitude or close your eyes, hold on tight, and passively wait for the inevitable roller coaster ride to be “over.” Best wishes for you and your data governance initiatives in 2008!

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