Resource Mistakes, Part III: Silencing Dissent

September 6, 2010
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In my previous two posts, I discussed some of the perils associated with staffing information management (IM) projects. Waiting until the last minute and finding the lowest cost resource can often lead to trouble. In this post, I’ll take a look at arguably the single most destructive thing that an organization can do on IT and IM projects: silencing dissent.

In my previous two posts, I discussed some of the perils associated with staffing information management (IM) projects. Waiting until the last minute and finding the lowest cost resource can often lead to trouble. In this post, I’ll take a look at arguably the single most destructive thing that an organization can do on IT and IM projects: silencing dissent.

Why Organizations Silence Dissent

For many reasons, organizations often try to quite those who raise legitimate issues. To be sure, intraorganizational politics often weave its ugly head into the mix. Perhaps a VP has his reputation on the line and needs an IM project to go live at a certain point. Other times, individual executive bonuses are on the line. I have also seen departmental myopia at work. People who work in one department often don’t want to hear about the issues that affect other departments. The lack of a steering or oversight committee or formal IT/data governance function exacerbates this issue.

I can cite many examples from my career of how these problems have manifested themselves. For example, I once worked at a large retail outfit rife with internal data issues, affecting multiple areas of the organization. I broached issues to superiors who essentially told me to keep quiet. I had no other choice. After I left the organization, within two years the organization was under investigation, its stock price plummeted 90 percent, and the CEO was forced to resign.

Why Dissent Matters

Whether internal or external (in the way of consultants), those that broach issues are typically not troublemakers. They know the downstream effects of continually ignoring a problem. What’s more, particularly when batch programs are involved affecting large transactional tables, a minor issue can become a major one over time.

Beyond fixing individual problems, however, failing to recognize–much less address–known issues sends a pernicious message throughout the organization: We don’t care. It encourages others to ignore issues, gradually eroding data quality and integrity and, in time, confidence in the overall systems of record in an organization.

Of course, none of this may register with bottom line-obsessed executives, particularly in publicly-traded companies. To that end, consider the same bottom line. At some point, data-oriented issues can no longer be ignored (read: audits, regulatory changes, and lawsuits). The costs to fix previously-identified issues are often exponentially higher than if they had been addressed earlier.

Look, there’s a proper way to raise issues. Those that use diplomacy, tact, and respect are more likely to have their issues heard. However, that does not ensure that they will be considered, much less acted upon. What’s more, there’s always the chance that the employee or consultant is crying wolf, broaching an issue that really doesn’t exist.

Still, isn’t it worth the risk of investigating it–or at least hearing the person out?

Read more at MIKE2.0: The Open Source Standard for Information Management