It’s been about a year since I stared my hiatus from writing. During that time I have been working deep in the bowels of Digital Strategy, Digitization & Digital Transformation. While much of my work in the past was focused on Data and Data Leadership and was featured monthly in the pages of Information Age (UK) as well as at their Digital Leadership conferences. My new focus areas will be a bit broader; Climate Change Leadership and Digital Leadership. I promise a wide range of topics, many of which are not covered in enough depth today. I hope to post more frequently as well. Stay Tuned!
Preface*: The Data Leadership Nexus (Copyright 2013) connects Data, Information, Analytics, Executive Leadership and Organizational Culture to create strategic impact, differentiation and enterprise value within every organization striving to become a true Predictive Enterprise.
Body: As we all prepare to attend this May’s (Information Age) “Data Summit” (http://bit.ly/1sznhbV) and to celebrate those chosen as the (Information Age) “Data 50” for 2017” (http://bit.ly/2o6OjaP), I wanted to reflect on how far we have progressed (or not) on the notion of Data Leadership since I began to write about it in these pages (Information Age) in 2013.
The origins of the Data Leadership conversation go back several decades to my time in the supercomputer sector and the “Grand Challenge” problems that we had been tasked in solving. In those days, CPU speed (and cooling requirements) and Network bandwidth dominated the discussion, while Data drove the outcomes. During that time in history Leaders had deep backgrounds in Science, Engineering & Math and all understood first-hand the scope of these challenges, as well as the limited means to surmount them.
Fast forward to today and we find that much has changed since then in terms of the characteristics & competencies of Leaders, as well as Computing & Networking hardware. Today, Data is recognized as centric (in all respects) to solving all Challenges, Grand or not, but not very well understood by those who ultimately have leadership accountability for it.
During this span of time the Data Management Team (an IT function) remains for the most part in charge of all data within each and every Organization. Whether it is under the auspices of a CIO, or an anointed proxy leader such as a CDO, data is still managed by IT at the direction of technical leaders. This is not a measure of any progress whatsoever in respect to either treating data as a key Organizational asset or establishing accountability for its creation, use (via Analytics) and stewardship by the CEO and Board. How can this be one should ask?
I have boiled it down to one common theme; Does your CEO (and Board) have the Right Stuff to do the job (of Data Leadership)? The simple answer is (emphatically), “No, not yet!”
For those who are fans of the book/movie, “The Right Stuff”(1) you might have been persuaded to believe that it was a story about Astronauts and their early struggles & successes, but in reality, it is one about Leadership. NASA as a program was successful not by having better technology, but by leveraging competent & capable Leadership from the top-down. Each Leader in their hierarchy had” The Right Stuff” in respect to fostering the mission & vision of the Program from a position of strength in respect to their core knowledge, skills and acumen. These same strengths are the foundations of Data Leadership as well.
To fully realize the power of digital, data & analytics in any Organization, no matter the sector, the entire leadership team must be competent and capable in exploiting these capabilities in every activity they undertake. They cannot delegate these requirements to so-called Data Scientists, Proxy Leaders e.g. CDO’s, or those in the IT Department who provide service delivery to them. They alone must accept responsibility for the successful execution of your data-driven strategy and be accountable to their superiors (including the Board) if they fail to do so. A true Data Leader must be more than a cheerleader who demands that others provide fruitful outcomes from digital, data & analytics. He/She must lead by example and be “hands on” in terms of approach and delivering the goods. This is the essence of having The Right Stuff, not the Leadership Fluffery that I continue to see across all Sectors. Creating Competitive Advantage from your Digital, Data & Analytics investments and capabilities is a Leadership Accountability that every Data Leader must step up to in order to succeed.
In today’s world, bona fide Leaders are hard to find under the best of circumstances. True Data Leaders are an exceptional find for any Organization and most are an amalgam of many talents. They cannot educated for this role, but rather molded into it based on a variety of life experiences and inherent capabilities. True Data Leaders are well rounded, comfortable with their responsibilities and always have a bit of swagger associated with those who have The Right Stuff.
Please join us on May 18th for the Information Age “Data Summit” and learn more about “Data Leadership and The Right Stuff”.
(1) “The Right Stuff” (’79) – Tom Wolfe’s epic tale of the NASA’s early days and the Mercury 7 Astronaut Program”
*-This posting appears in edited for as an article in the April 2017 edition of Information Age (www.information-age.com) and can be accessed on the IA Hub (www.informationagehub.uk)
Preface: The UK Digital Strategy and the refreshed Government Transformation Strategy went from MIA (for more than a year) to DOA (as with all UK Gov strategies in recent months e.g. Brexit, Industrial, Digital Economy, etc.). Perhaps they should have stayed Missing in Action?
After interminable delays the UK Government finally unveiled both its “Government Transformation Strategy (2017-2020)” and its “UK Digital Strategy” (parts of the notion of a Digital Economy). To say they landed with loud thuds would be far too kind in my viewpoint.
These strategies were delivered by the Cabinet Offices’ “Top Digital Emperors” (Ben, Matt & Karen) and have been positioned “as the means to restore trust in the way that Government works with people, much less Democracy itself” as well as “to Create a Digital Economy that works for everyone”. Those are pretty tall orders for a Brexit-rattled Government that cannot define what their Leave Strategy actually entails.
Strategies come and go, but few have been set up for failure so substantially as these two. These strategies are a Dog’s Breakfast of vague promises & aspiration that are the result of folly & fantasy of feckless Digital Emperors in Government, all of whom are desperate to show some “Digital” progress (and justification for their profligate spending). They pander to rising Nationalism and employ the tired practice of wrapping up their plan in empty patriotic rhetoric and slogans such as “The Government wants to serve” & “We have a plan for Britain”.
As expected, the facile Tech Press, Gov’t Funded Institutions and recipients of Corporate Welfare have all rallied around the Governments’ plans (or in some cases have remained silent so as to not draw attention to themselves) and are doing their best to promote its value to the UK, much less mankind itself. I am not a member of either of these camps and would like to share my unvarnished opinions with our readers.
To convey my view on these strategies I have chosen ten key points to focus attention on. Each will have a short note about itself.
- Substance (something worth fighting for). [Rating: very little].
- Leadership (someone you believe it). [Rating: virtually non-existent].
- Value (is it worth it?). [Rating: unquantifiable].
- he Notion of Government as a Business including Corporate Functions (Governments are not Business’ and vice versa). [Rating: hard to fathom].
- The use of Repetition as a Filler Mechanism (See if you can count the number of times that the same platitudes are cut ‘n pasted throughout). [Rating: high marks for repetition rate, but low marks for the content used].
- The Notion of Digital People (not a Culture of Digital) (an absurd reference to the fact that digital is special). [Rating: Nonsensical at best].
- The use of Farcical Financials (a tribute to bogus projections & other similarly dubious metrics) [Rating: expected, but the use of extreme specificity exposes it farcicality].
- The referencing of favorable Reference Points & Case Studies (cheery picked for maximum alignment w/themes) [Rating: these are bad and belie the fact there is no measurable success or financial benefits so far].
- Finding a way to “Blame it on Brexit” (If it fails (and it will); who do we blame?). [Rating: rubber stamp completed].
- The Level of Incompetence & Risk in the entire plan (not just mere whimsy, but rank incompetence). [Rating: doomed to fail, but it will still be heralded as a success].
While these evaluation points might be seen as harsh (or perhaps inconsequential) measures by some, let’s be clear; Strategy is a point in time view of a plan to get where you want to be. If it is crafted by people with no vision whatsoever (other than the next election cycle), with a mission that consists only of attaining & maintaining political power, and goals that benefit only those in power, then it is of little value, because as we all know “Execution of the strategy is 99.5% of the effort and consumes all of the money”. I see little to persuade me that precision in execution of these strategies will be the norm as the NAO continues to point out.
Brexit, no matter how it ends, will require all the Gov’t strategies to be completely re-thought and re-vamped. To create a “Digital Government which supports a Digital Economy made up of Digital Citizens” is a great political slogan, but means very little to the Electorate as it stands today with the greatest crisis in generations facing it; “What will Britain be like after Brexit and how does it affect me?” These abominations of a Digital Strategy and Transformation Program will not help whatsoever in bringing comfort to any Citizen in the UK.
*This posting in an edited form appears in the March 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)
The UK’s: Government Digital Service (GDS), the US’s: Digital Services (USDS) and Australia’s: Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) are all train wrecks in every meaningful measure of success.Continue Reading...
Preface: I did not write a formal posting on the Data for Policy confab this past September, but wanted to at least share the materials that I presented and discussed during the conference.
Abstract: The notion of Data-driven Policy making and its associated Governance, is often challenged by the fact that the vast majority of Politicians, Civil Servants, Champions of Industry & Non-Profit Leaders are basically illiterate in the domains of data, analytics & decision science. Most of these leaders have come up through their careers making decisions based on gut instinct (experience), group think (consensus) or by using a modicum of summary data & visual analysis, but few have either a base in decision science or statistics, much less have bootstrapped themselves along their careers to become Data & Analytics Literate.
Educators today are faced with the daunting task of preparing future generations of Leaders who must have deep competencies & acumen in all aspects of data, analysis & decision science. Many have chosen to focus on the dubious discipline of so-called Data Science. These endeavors are for the most part a cynical attempt by educators to latch onto the latest fad and to create degree programs based upon cobbling together a hodge podge of disciplines which is sold to unsuspecting students as either an Undergraduate or Post Graduate degree opportunity. All fail at their mission and leave graduates, much less future leaders, with a degree that is sorely lacking in the core skills and competencies required to succeed with.
In my presentation at the Conference I endeavored to trace the roots of how we got into such a mess, what needs to be done to prepare individuals to become Data-driven Leaders and how Educators must re-think their approach to creating/adjust curriculum and programs to put all students on a path to Data & Analytics competency and mastery no matter their chosen field of endeavor. I focused specifically on the notion of Top-down Data Leadership that I coined several years ago and use to drive convergence on the key issues and competencies required by all Leaders, Managers & Employees to be use data, analytics & decision science pervasively across their Organizations.
Handouts & Videos:
U-tube Interview: http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ
I spoke at Data for Policy 2016 this past September on the issue of “You can’t have Data-driven Policy if your Leaders are Analytics Illiterate” (http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ ). I wanted to follow-up on those thoughts with this posting.
Strategy is the path that Leaders divine for Organizations to take in pursuing their short and long-term Goals (Outcomes). Leadership is the glue that keeps everyone & everything together during the course of pursuing these Strategic Outcomes. Data Literacy is the new intellectual underpinning of every successful Strategy going forward. All three working in concert is how Organizations’ can exploit the potential of Data & Analytics for Strategic Success at the expense of their competition or to delight their Citizens. It’s what I refer to as “Embracing the Data Leadership Nexus”.
We now live in a time where every Champion of Industry, Politician & Civil Servant, is a self-proclaimed expert on Strategy and Leadership and yet most (if not all), are Data (& Analytics) Illiterate. Having no specific first-hand knowledge or experience in the domains of data, analytics & decision science, they continue to rely on “processed information” (via so-called Data Scientists) and personal gut instinct to formulate plans, make decisions with and to react to emerging situations. Without hesitation, each decides what balance of “head and heart” they will use for each & every decision. In a dangerous twist, many “Leaders” in recent times have decided to ignore Facts & Evidence altogether and base their decisions solely on Ideology. I am certain that most of our readers are aware of these as borne out in the major political calamities of 2016.
There are many who aspire to the mantle of leadership. It is a tough road for most with many pitfalls along the way. Surmounting these challenges is part of the maturation & hardening process that Leaders must go through to earn their stripes. The challenges leaders face today and in the future, will be many and ever-growing in terms of complexity (and nuance), but they now have at their disposal science-based Facts, Evidence and Methodologies for making data-driven decisions at every turn. All that is required is belief in the notion of data-driven decisioning and basic literacy & competencies in the use of data & analysis to underpin decisions, insights & ultimately strategy (and tactics). While straightforward in respect to need, the efforts required to overcome the lack of Data Literacy by Leaders are substantial. The current (much less next) generation of Leaders and Leadership candidates are not equipped intellectually and experientially to be truly data-driven. They must be mentored, tutored and enlightened by examples of where data-driven decisions have paid off in terms of differentiation, insights, risk mitigation, etc. This approach will allow them to experience first-hand the personal growth that comes from investing time and effort in Data Literacy endeavors and the benefits that manifest from it. It will also heavily influence other Leaders and those on the Leadership track as to what the future holds in respect to competencies and the outcomes that can be achieved by a data-driven approach.
Leaders today face a barrage of hype about Big Data, Digital & Analytics. Few actually understand what any of it truly means, but all want to “have some” for their Organization. This paradox of need vs. understanding must be addressed through Data Literacy endeavors. Only then will be have Leaders (and those in waiting) who are competent in the domains of data, analytics, decision science and yes, even digital. They will then have the acumen (and confidence) to define Core Strategies that will leverage these competencies to achieve specific & sustainable Outcomes for their Organization, regardless of sector. It will also bring to an end to the nonsensical notion that Data & Analytics, Decision Science and Digital are “bolt-on” functional capabilities that require separate strategies (or Transformation Program to make them achievable. Every Organization, regardless of size, sector or mission statement must use its Core Competencies in an integrated form to create Strategic Advantage. Leadership that is literate in these same domains is well positioned to exploit them fully, while reducing inherent risks to a manageable level of tolerance. This is what Strategy has done for decades using stone tablets and chisels and will excel at in the future by exploiting the benefits of Data Literacy from the top down.
For further insights see McKinsey’s two (late 2016) essential studies on data & analytics “Making data analytics work for you—instead of the other way around”, & “The age of analytics: Competing in a data-driven world”.
* – An edited version of this posting appears in the January 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)
Psychological Projection: A theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.
The Mayhem Government aka Theresa May’s Post-Brexit cabal has already left a lasting mark on the UK and its role in the Global economy during its short time in power. It is clear to me (and no doubt others) that in spite of the circumstances of her appointment, Theresa May absolutely believes that she has a mandate to change the UK forever and not just exit the European Union. So far, her vision for the UK is decidedly one where the residents of England, Scotland & Wales will become much more homogenous, monitored 24×7 by the State and live in a world where the economic wealth and well-being of the country will be severely diminished for generations to come, all in the name of the rigid ideology known as “British Nationalism”. This vision for a Little Britain, along with the implications of using Big Data for mass surveillance, behavior control & the dissemination of government propaganda is what I will focus on for this month’s column.
The rise of Nationalistic fever around the globe has been fueled by both rigid ideologies and the use of data (Big and Small) to gain insights on the public, as well as to control any opposition. Much of this has been conducted under the auspices of being for “public good” or in the name of “national security”, with all efforts specifically intended to concentrate more power, insights & control into the hands of Governments’ who are a lot less Democratic and a much more Authoritarian (much less paranoid) than they were just a couple of decades ago (Pre-9/11 & 7/7).
Many of us have foreseen these issues and spoken up, but the media and press have been co-opted by these same Governments to act as their Pit Bulls in stifling any opposition as well as reporting the truth. This toxic mix of rigid ideologies, concentration of power, the limitation of human rights and the muting of dissent has reduced the principles of Democracy to more of a notion, if not a source of ridicule by those now in power (or desirous of attaining it). Examples of these endeavors in recent months in the UK (both pre & post the Brexit “Leave” vote) include;
- The IP Bill (Snoopers Charter)
- The Digital Economy Bill
- The Department for Education – National Pupil Database
- Home Office “Foreign Employees” Database
All of these “tools of control and surveillance” leverage the same Big Data capabilities that have be touted by so many as “virtuous and beneficial to society”, but in ways that few were openly willing to discuss publicly. However, there have been some recent discussions in the UK and US on managing the vision & scope of Artificial Intelligence for the public good as well as getting ahead of the tide of Discrimination that Big Data driven insights into Citizens behaviors has brought. In all cases these efforts were designed to distract attention away from the Government’s own behavior in respect to these and other emerging applications of Big Data and Advanced Analytics. In essence, the fears about the nefarious use of Big Data to harm or control the public are a form of psychological projection in respect to the Government shifting its own blame onto others, while standing in judgement against the Public and NFP sectors. It all would seem so laughable if it were not so serious.
The movement away from Democratic Government to one based on rigid Ideologies, along with the exploitation of Big Data & Advanced Analytics by these same Government’s has become a “clear and present danger” to all Citizens under their control. The accumulation of knowledge about each Citizens’ behavior & activities by the State is a bell that cannot be un-rung. Massive databases, predictive analytics, machine learning, etc. are all tools of the Big Data paradigm and can be used as a force for good in the right hands or as an unbounded force for evil in the wrong ones. To imagine the scope of this potential evil one only needs to look back a short time in history to see how such information, albeit at a much more primitive level of sophistication, was used to discriminate, enslave and control entire populations across the world. The efficiencies brought by Big Data to this type of behavior control are limitless and should be feared by all that cherish the beliefs of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’.
PostScript: With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, I expect that all controls (albeit weak) previously in place to protect against the abuse of US Citizens by either Government or Industry in respect to Big Data, Privacy, Discrimination, etc. will all be thrown out the window immediately after the inauguration and that an “Enemies List” will soon be made known in terms of those that Trump and his disciples will go after. This List will range from Political figures to Ordinary Citizens all of whom having slighted Trump somehow in his authoritarian/fascist view of the world around him. These activities will make those of the Mayhem Government look amateurish in comparison.
* An edited version of this posting appears in the November 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)