Archives For Leadership

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)

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.

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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:

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U-tube Interview: http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ

 

Preface:

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.

Body:*

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.

Post Script:

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) 

 

Definition:

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.

Body: 

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.

EU Flag and UK Flag Piggybanks Exchange Rate Concept 3D Illustration

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)


 

 

Preface: Enlightened self-interest  n. the principle or practice of furthering one’s own interests while simultaneously benefiting others

Body: The recriminations of the recent Brexit Vote continue to reverberate throughout the world with many in both camps lamenting; “How did this happen?”. One could clearly argue that an informed Electorate, by sufficient margin chose to leave the EU of their own free will. Others (including myself) will argue that the use of Dubious Data, Questionable Facts and Hyperbolic Rhetoric duped the majority of the Electorate into believing they had no other choice in the matter because their futures were being threatened by the Bogy Men (and Women) of the EU and other imagined threats to UK sovereignty. How could this come to be?

The UK has for some time been at the forefront of promoting the notion of Data-driven Government as the solution to many societal and governmental challenges. It has invested heavily in Digital, Data & Analytics initiatives, along with promoting educational & research-based endeavors which are designed to “raise all boats” in respect to competencies and acumen in the use of digital, data & analytics for insights & decision making. It has done nothing however to change the tone or tenor of politics in respect to using Data & Facts inappropriately to support their positions and to refute arguments by the Opposition. In the Scottish Separation Referendum of 2014, the General Election of 2015 and most recently in the Brexit Referendum (2016), politicians of all stripes abused & corrupted data & facts to fit their particular agendas; all with little or no oversight nor any real repercussions. This behavior cannot continue if any Government wants to call itself either Data-driven or Fact-based in its Decision making, much less claim the high ground in any debate or formal findings. The erosion of Trust in Government is directly correlated to this behavior and many now question any Data or Facts originating inside (or outside) of Government. Factual reporting or fundamental analysis of key issues & options for consideration.

The notion of enlightened self-interest has been a foundation of politics for many, many years. It is the grand bargain that Political Parties make with their members and those who financially support them. In the recent examples that I have cited there has been none of this. It has become a “winner takes all” battle of ideologies with collateral damage on both sides of the arguments. As one might suspect the first casualty of these battles is always the Truth, but now it has begun to erode basic Trust in Government and not just Politicians. The Electorate is now manipulated by Dubious Data and Questionable Facts at every turn and are voting against their own future well-being in an irrational manner.

How to reverse this course seems clear to me? There must be a rebuilding of the firewall between Government and Politics to such a level that a true “air gap” exists. Arm’s length will no longer suffice if Trust is to be re-established and maintained. In the Brexit run-up both Politician’s (Remain and Leave) and Civil Service Officials were complicit in creating Dubious Data and Questionable Facts (if not outright lies) for consumption by the Electorate without any real Arbiter of the Truth having a voice in the process. The Press, Special Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Self-promoters were all guilty of regurgitating this bogus & misleading information in wholesale fashion. All with no consequences. My recommendation is to put a stop to these behaviors immediately and to create an official body within Government who is the only source of the Truth when it comes to data, facts & reference information. This body must not only be non-partisan, but above reproach and influence. Those bodies that exist today such as ONS have been corrupted beyond redemption and must be not only held to account for their behaviors as “enablers” but stripped of their power by this new “Department of Truth”. Politicians, Detractors and Advocates will all have to use the same “blessed data” and “straight-forward facts” to support their rhetoric. Going forward the Electorate will only hear “the unvarnished truth” regardless of their appetite or appreciation of its implications.

The approach that I advocate is neither naive, nor uninformed by the reality of Government & Politics. It is simply the most straight-forward solution to the challenge. In the end, the Truth must prevail and it should not take an Act of God to get to it.

  • – An edited version of this posting appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

Preface: There are many UK Government Strategies, Manifestos, Advisory Boards, etc. and the list keeps growing each day. Here are just a few of the ones being touted by the UK Government at the moment; UK Digital Strategy, Mayor of London’s Data Strategy, GDS Vision for Gov.uk, GDS Principles for Government as a Platform, CO Government Data Programme, GDS Digital Advisory Board, CO Data Steering Group, UK Data Sharing Consultation, GDS Registry Advisory Board, Royal Statistics Society “Data Manifesto”, ONS Strategy post-Bean Review, etc.  You have to ask “what do all of these accomplish in respect to replacing/augmenting authentic leadership?”

Intro: The much ballyhooed UK Digital Strategy is apparently now in tatters. It has now been pushed out until after the BREXIT vote in the Summer, but is an indicator of the greater challenges in Government; A complete lack of competent leadership by the Cabinet Office and the Ministers who have been assigned responsibility for Digital, GDS and Other “transformational” investments. It also bodes disaster for Civil Service mandarins who must manage “the vision” and the budget simultaneously with no top-down leadership or direction.

As I proffer to all my clients whom I coach on Leadership: “You can’t Lead what you don’t Understand”.

Body: A common thread found today in every pronouncement by the UK Government and its Proxies is the role of the Strategy that they have developed, either independently (via consultants) or in consultation with a group of contributors/advisors (all of whom have an agenda seeking fulfillment). Each strategy is heralded as the means to achieve what has previously been unachievable e.g. Transformation; or disruptive in terms of changing the status quo e.g. Digital. According to these pronouncements, “All have been designed for maximum impact with little risk” i.e. Revolutionary. However, most will fail to achieve the desired outcomes which have been promoted to justify the investment or will be terminated altogether due to cost & time overruns, etc. (only to be resurrected later under a different name in many cases) at significant cost to the Treasury (and the taxpayers). Why is this always the case one should ask?

Having been a student of strategy (and its execution) for all of my long career, I find this phenomenon both exhilarating and nauseating at the same time. As you cannot see, I still have the scars of many failed strategies on my back; all of which were a result of bad leadership by my superiors who owned the outcome of the strategy, but were not invested enough to make it a success. In principle, Strategy is only 1% of the overall endeavor, with execution being the remaining 99%. This is the core challenge and the most troubling aspect of what I see so often in Government-Lead Strategies, Manifestos, Advisory Boards, etc. They are big on bluster & hype, but low on energy & commitment by their Leaders to achieving the outcome. One only needs to look at some of the pitchmen aka Leaders who are touting some of these strategies today to see real examples of this first hand.

Strategic Change must be part of every true Leaders portfolio of accountabilities in order for any Organization to grow (at inordinate rates), much less counter competitive threats. However, in politics/government where you have a partnership of the ruling party and the civil service there is always a disconnect, if not outright gulf between what is said and what ultimately is accomplished. To mitigate this risk many governments will engage Consultancies/Systems Integrators to deliver on their promises while they cheerlead from the sidelines and designate Civil Servants to “manage the program” as their proxies. This rarely works out and given the UK Government’s long history of large (and small) programme disasters it seems that few ever learn from these mistakes.

It is worth repeating what I have written many times before in this column; “Leadership must be top-down, hands-on and from those ultimately accountable for both the strategy and its success”. Appointing proxies or hiring contractors as surrogate leaders has never succeeded in the past, and will not in the future. The most important component of Strategic Change is that of the Organization’s Culture itself. An Organization’s Culture is the shadow of its Leaders. It mirrors their Leaders behavior and will support its strategic goals if trust has been sufficiently fostered and they feel engaged (not commanded.

Strategic Leaders must take ownership of all aspects of their strategies and drive their execution to success through both actions and deeds. These Leaders must rise to this challenge no matter what it brings and provide a steady hand through all phases of a Strategy Program, all the while keeping the lights on and wheels turning in the current operating environment. These traits are why I believe that “The mantle of Leadership cannot be learned, it must be earned through blood, sweat, toil & tears”. Most of today’s political leaders (so to speak) have reached their pinnacle of power by dodging accountability while taking glory for the hard work & ideas of others, and are ill equipped to be what I refer to as a Strategic Leader. Their partners in Civil Service, while independent of politics to some degree, are not particularly seasoned Leaders either as the system does not promote risk takers (who might fail) and continues to reward bureaucrats who duck for cover at the first sign of trouble. This creates a true Leadership Conundrum which must be reckoned with in order to succeed.

Leadership is more than a forward-looking vision and a grandiose strategy; it is about delivering on them. Without a crisis to focus on, most Politicians and Civil Servants cannot find it in themselves to rise to be real Leaders. Perhaps that is what many of these strategies need at the moment.

Notes:

1.- This article appeared in an edited form in the April 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.uk)

2.- The featured image was taken at IBM’s IOD conference in 2012, but is being used in this context to denote how many so-called Leaders appear in public as they hype their strategic leadership capabilities.