Governance and Visibility (GaV)
Many executive leaders have lost sleep on the question, “what is going on in my organization.” There are two prevailing methods for managing the complexity of larger environments: Management by Evidence (MBE) and Management by Antidote (MBA). MBA is a personality driven model where what counts as evidence is based on who knows whom, who knows where the preverbal “bodies” are buried, and which “wheel” squeaks the loudest. This model tends to thrive in smaller, more informal and entrepreneurial environments. The challenge is that many smaller environments become bigger through success, hard work and innovation. When MBE is used in larger more complex environments you tend to see predictable problems. These organizations often struggles with employee engagement, effective decision making, and overall throughput because of the organic and inefficient way that data is collected, analyzed, and absorbed.
Many such environments have begun to reject MBA in favor of an MBE model. MBE is based on the premise that in order to effectively manage complex environments, we must define mutually acceptable ways of collecting and analyzing evidence. Evidence will come from data, stored in systems, and will be evaluated objectively. The reason this is directly tied to governance is that it is almost impossible to maintain effective governance in an MBA culture. Whether you’re trying to build control systems for SOX, absorbing a Portfolio Management discipline, or managing control requirements for the FDA, you are going to need visibility and a common framework of data to effectively manage and measure the creation of the outcomes you want, and the avoidance of the outcomes you don’t.
Governance and Visibility Defined
There are many issues associated with Governance and Visibility, but most of them have these four central themes in common:
- Understanding the Governance Framework — Too often systems are architected in a vacuum, reports are designed based on one-off requests, and control processes are developed independently. In order to drive governance forward you must develop a governance framework. This framework must look at the key questions in your organization. For each question you should look at which system or data point will be authoritative. Once defined, you should develop a strategy for retrieving and distributing this data in an automated way, and then building reasonable control points around the data set.
- Transitioning to MBE — Transitioning to MBE environments can be one of the hardest challenges an organization can face. If you have rewarded exceptional “fire-fighting” as a skill, people will unconsciously look for ways to start fires. If you have rewarded the skilled politicians, people will create scenarios where their political acumen is noticeably useful. Effective migration away from MBA can often require a radical shift in the way you think about how decisions are made, how people are managed and promoted, and what you consider to be effective leadership and management.
- Aligning with Governance Requirements — As you develop your Governance Framework you must understand what control points will be monitored by external governance requirements (i.e. SOX, Cobit, ITIL, EVMS, etc). For each of these requirements you will want to develop proactive warning mechanism for anything linked to a critical failure.
- Controlling Report Creep — Although MBE can be very valuable, it often leads to request for a whole host of reporting options that may produce only marginal value. Ensuring alignment with the overall Governance Framework should be a requirement of all new reports.
Considerations for the Solutions Architect
Getting everybody at the management and leadership to buy into a MBE concept is not easy. There will be many organizational super-stars, that may not like a more defined, controlled, and proactive model. You must consider how quickly you intend to move, and how much support or patience you can afford when migrating the culture. The unfortunate bottom line, is even with the most gracious and accommodating transition you will almost certainly have valued members of your leadership team that do not want to migrate.
One of the common challenges in process development for governance scenarios is that processes can often save the company money (through the avoidance of fines and costly delays) This only feeds a natural impulse among process engineers to see process as intrinsically good. If unchecked, this will often mean you will end up with more process and greater control then is value add. Each process should be rigorously reviewed not just for quality or effectiveness, but for incremental value -add.
Typically the biggest issue for platform in this debate is determining which system will be considered a source of truth for what. Mistakes are often made in two directions: extending the scope of a platform beyond what it can effectively do (try to use an ERP system for schedule management) or trying to define a platform too narrowly. If the correct control platform is defined as either a panacea or left in hand-cuffs it will never contribute as desired to the governance framework.