In my last post, I laid out the notion of The Data Leadership Nexus and its five basic components;
- Top-Down Leadership (by the Senior Executive Team)
- Data, Information & Analytics
- Organizational Culture
I will discuss the most important component of The Data Leadership Nexus in this posting entitled, “Leadership Requirements in the Predictive Enterprise”.
Much has been written about the criticality of strong Leadership. It is an essential requirement to becoming a Predictive Enterprise. One of the foremost thinkers on Leadership, Warren Bennis passed away just last month (July 2014). He chronicled the attributes and characteristics of “The Modern Leader” in his many books on the subject, but his basic conclusion (in my words) on the role of Leadership was; “We can neither transform, nor reach successful strategic outcomes without strong and effective Leadership from the Top Down”. It is on this point alone that I continue to bristle against the growing advocacy for “Chief Whatever Officers”.
No matter the domain (data, data protection, data security, analytics, digital, etc.), I do not agree with the constant drumbeat to appoint a “czar” to fix (or enhance) a function which is the direct accountability of the Senior Executive Team (whom I will refer to as the SET going forward). What is required here is to address the data, information & analytics shortcomings of the Current Generation of Senior Executives in respect to the Key Attributes of; Education, Acumen, Competency & Operational Experience such that they (and only them) can take assume their critical (and natural) role in the The Data Leadership Nexus. We cannot continue to run away from the real problem as to why we are not realizing the benefits from 50+ years of investing inordinately in data, information & (most recently) analytics. Clearly, the CIO (in all forms and incarnations) has not been able to accomplish this and no type of proxy will be able to be successful either. It is simply a waste of precious time and resources to go down this path (CDO, CAO, etc.) and then discover it didn’t work (once again).
Let’s get started. As some of you may have gathered from my recent article in IBM’s Data Magazine ( http://bit.ly/1vvhwea ) the vast majority of today’s Senior Executives do not have all (or even some) of these major attributes in their favor when it comes to Data Leadership. Suffice it to say that these were not essential as they climbed the organizational ladder and honed their Executive skills over the past several decades. However, because of these shortcomings they now find themselves acting as cheerleaders for strategies and capabilities that they do not really understand in detail, nor can lead from a position of strength. This has lead to the use of a crutch by appointing “a czar” (proxy) or being too timid altogether in pursuing sound strategies and outcomes (i.e. limited capital & manpower investments, short-term benefits realization horizons, being “gun shy” of risks, etc.). This short-sightedness has not compensated for their lack of Education, Acumen, Competency & Operational Experience in data, information & analytics and is subjecting them to the fundamental executive shortcoming of: “You can’t lead (to success) what you don’t understand”. How we overcome this challenge is the critical path to success in achieving the Leadership component of The Data Leadership Nexus.
The most immediate path to overcoming these Leadership challenges is to bootstrap all of the required attributes for each member of the Senior Executive Team via Mentoring, Coaching, Advisory activities and Academies/Boot Camps. Time is precious with each of these SET members so a personalized plan must be developed and executed in a fashion that demonstrates real-time progress and an acceleration of results to get to a level of capabilities and understandings consistent of the needs for true Data Leadership. These plans will then have a long-range view in order to maximize and sustain results. There are many Boutique Tier 1 & Tier 2 consultancies who have the practice capabilities to fill these requirements for their clients. Most realize, along with myself that it is essential to transfer the required domain knowledge and skills to SET members to achieve strategic success for the Client Organization. At the end of the day, The Client must lead with Advisors/Consultants providing a supporting role in the background. While these boundaries blur at times, it is the most proven path to success in both the short and long haul.
Most importantly we must better prepare the Next Generation of Executives for their own Data Leadership roles by baking all of these same attributes into every aspect of their personal and professional development activities such that they too can assume the mantle of leadership when it is their time and be fully prepared (and tested in advance) for it.
It’s a challenge to provide the necessary detail of the path forward in a short posting, but I hope that I have conveyed not only the necessity of Top Down Data Leadership, but the urgency of addressing the current shortcomings in today’s Senior Executive Teams such that they can assume this accountability along with all of the others they currently have.
In my next posting I will jump down our list of Basic Components to #5 – Organizational Culture. It is a companion to Top Down Data Leadership and is the reflection of how effective and persuasive that the Senior Executive Team is in both articulating and ultimately executing the Organizations’ Data, Information & Analytics Strategies & Tactics. Look for this next posting sometime soon.