Why I’m Devoting the Rest of My Career to the Concept of Data-Driven Organizations

I’m still working on the Data Quality posts. They will happen. I’m in the process of actually implementing this with a client, so this gives me a lot of material to work with. However, I wanted to just drop a quick post to talk about some of my goals for the rest of the year. You see, I have a kind of unified vision going. I want to become an expert in helping people achieve the Data Driven Organization from soup to nuts.

What is a Data Driven Organization? Basically, this is an organization that uses data to drive organizational decisions. Sounds easy enough, right? Everyone has reports. CEOs read reports. Decisions are made. Yay! Data driven.

It’s both not that easy and just that simple.

It’s not that easy because most organizations aren’t built around being data driven. Most organizations are still trapped in the old “command and control,” mentality built from the early industrial revolution concepts built by Frederick Taylor. Taylorism is the idea that humans are just basically part of the industrial machine. With the right command and control in place, from the top down leadership can achieve organizational goals through command and control.

However, the vast complexity of today’s business environment renders Taylorism as useless. This isn’t a knock on CEOs, but there just isn’t enough business intelligence at the top to adequately command the modern workforce, which includes humans, processes, and machines. What has come to replace Taylorism is a different way of thinking born out of a number of various philosophies.

D. Edwards Deming introduced the industrial world to the “Shewhart Cycle,” which evolved into the Plan-Do-Check-Act process. This thinking changed Japan for the better after WWII leading to the Lean Engineering thinking that we recognize today in so many manufacturing organizations. In the software development world we had our own early awakening in the form of the Agile Manifesto, which has also spawned a number of interesting methods, processes, and ideas to help deliver software that meets an organization’s value goals with greater quality in a timely fashion.

With all these vast improvements that are more than visible in the current business landscape you would think that the concept of Taylorism would be as dead as the steam powered locomotive, but it’s surprising the number of business that still fall into the trap of believing that Command and Control is the only path. I’ve even seen many organizations claim they are adopting “Agile,” when all they are doing is faking agility by taking on some process like SCRUM. SCRUM does not make you agile if you don’t train for agility. Just like wearing sprinter’s shoes doesn’t make me a sprinter. Sprinting regularly, and training to sprint regularly actually makes me a sprinter. The shoes are only a tool to achieve the goals of being a sprinter. They don’t make me the sprinter.

So how then do organizations transform from Taylorism to being a data driven organization?

Well, that’s something I plan to learn myself over the next few years. I’d like to develop an actual framework of people, processes, and tools that are completely focused on applying data driven thinking to value streams. A big focus on this thought project is achieving asset creation based on data gathered through hypothesis and experimentation. Now I’m not a scientist, but luckily for all of us non-scientists, the scientific method isn’t that complicated.

Markets can be studied. Data about their unique aspects can be captured. A hypothesis can be formed from the data–in other words, an organization can make a financial bet that a particular aspect of the market could be true. Money and time budget can be aimed at experiments to prove or disprove the hypothesis. From those experiments assets could be derived from the data. Those assets could fulfill the need of a particular value stream and create revenue.

This is the framework that I want to learn and understand and hopefully become and expert in over the next few years.

This definitely gives this blog a new purpose. As I learn and grow in the areas where I need to focus I will share my findings here. Some of these findings might be notes on books or other people’s articles and findings. Some might actually be a way to achieve some technical goal–like creating an IoT sensor network to gather productivity data. Some of the posts will be thoughts on projects that I believe will add to the framework (such as the Data Quality Method I’m presently working on). Ideally, I will build the framework in the same way that I would hope a data driven organization would build any of its assets–the data driven way. Recursion will be our friend in this process, so expect the framework to change as new insights are discovered.

It’s a big topic and I hope to contribute to its understanding, its usefulness to the IT community, and its usefulness to the market in general.

Personally, I’m tired of seeing waste. I don’t like to see waste in human potential, I don’t like to see organizations wasting their time and their money on projects doomed to failure–and in my 20+ years of development I’ve seen a lot of that waste. I’ve seen tood many projects fail because of bad leadership, bad decision making, and a failure of IT and the business to align on common visions and goals.

I’d like to make it my soul purpose to help ease this pain – yes, I do mean soul purpose and not sole purpose. I want this to be the driving purpose of my career and my life. I believe helping to build this type of framework is one way that I can contribute.

I hope you’ll join my on this journey. I think it will be a fascinating one with lots of room for growth and discovery.

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