If you are trying to stand up a data governance practice within your organization and wonder why it isn’t getting a lot of traction, you may be overlooking a critical piece to your implementation—change management. 

Be clear with your colleagues on where you want to go with your data governance work and why.

There are many resources out there that will tell you what data governance is, how it should be structured, who to bring to the table, what to make decisions on, and the like. With a relatively small amount of effort, your organization can become knowledgeable about the fundamentals of data governance. But how do you get someone to accept the role of data steward? And how do you convince your colleagues to adopt new ways of working described in your charter? That requires people to change their behaviors. And change is hard.

At UPD we often cite the work of Chip and Dan Heath in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. They describe change as being the make up of three parts—the rational mindset of the team undergoing the change, the emotional mindset, and the environment in which the change will occur. In order for change to take place (and hold) you must balance all three components. And when you find impediments to change, examining your situation by focusing on imbalances in these three components can be immensely useful to identifying creative solutions to overcoming implementation barriers. Below I spell out a few tangible ways to use change management to help unstick your data governance implementation. But I enthusiastically suggest you get your hands on a copy of Switch to explore more deeply the practice of change management and how it can support your work.

Addressing the rational mindset: Be clear with your colleagues on where you want to go and why you want to go there!

This really is rule number one. It is hard to get people on board with the vision of data governance if they don’t understand why they need data governance and what it looks like to get to a solid data governance practice. Take the time to get clear on these aspects, perhaps spelling them out in a business case for data governance. 

Addressing the emotional mindset: Illuminate for your team that you’ve already started data governance!

If your organization is collecting, storing, and using data, you are already doing some form of data governance. You may not be meeting routinely or making robust decisions. You may not call the work data governance. But you are assuredly doing some sort of decision making around the policies and processes of managing your organization’s data. So, congratulations! You’ve already taken the first steps, and you should be promoting what you have done already to reduce the often overwhelming feeling of “starting from scratch.” 

Addressing the environment and the emotional mindset: You don’t need to implement everything right away!

It is tempting to figure out a blueprint for data governance and begin implementing the practice in full form immediately and with fidelity to the way it is “supposed to work.” Instead think of your organization on a maturity curve. What are the steps you can take to improve your data governance practice in the immediate future? Taking smaller, discrete steps can become motivating wins as you more deliberately build the practices and behaviors of your data governance team. And as you take these small steps, you start to build the habits necessary to successfully implement data governance, such as scheduling routine times to make decisions, bringing the right stakeholders into the room, and following set processes agreed upon by the whole. 

These three change management ideas are a few of many strategies your organization may want to try as you set up or grow your data governance practice. Good luck with your work, and remember that change takes time! If you have a data governance change management success story, I always like to hear them. Email me at awillemssen@updconsulting.com.