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How to Operationalize and Sustain Progress?

by Andrew White  |  April 21, 2017  |  Comments Off on How to Operationalize and Sustain Progress?

I attended a Gartner internal research community today (it was the Data and Analytics Programs and Leaders group) and I asked the group of analysts if an observation of mine was an anomaly or was it being seen by others.  My observation is this…

I had met in the last few weeks and months with several clients, and another this week, whom I had had a fairly long standing relationship with.  As such I knew of many of their MDM and information governance programs some years ago, perhaps as far back as 5 to 8 years ago.  It so happened that these clients had, in the past, been held up as good examples of progressive organizations that were doing well with MDM and governing application data.  That was then.  Now, however, these same organizations are having to almost re-start their entire efforts related to MDM and information governance.

This troubled me.  Why is it that some of the best “case studies” some years ago now seem to be close to ground zero?  How is it that organizations can go two steps forward one period, and then take one or even two steps back later?  And this also seemed to trigger a related thought: why is it that some scions of innovation industry written about in management books one year are losers and drop-outs in later years?

On reflection this pattern is not unique to me.  I see it in MDM land now; some 15 years ago I saw in Supply Chain Management in my first Gartner career.  So I took the observation to the team to see if others see the same pattern: Is it the case that organizations struggle to operationalize the methods and work that help them progress?

It turns out that this pattern does seem to be quite common.  Several analysts agreed the pattern is consistent in other domains, topics and research areas.  We concluded that the cycle is between 5 to 7 years. The trigger for what causes an organization to “lose its way” are many – from changes in leadership, business conditions or ownership, or otherwise a change in priorities.

Interestingly these triggers might actually lead an organization to make new progress, and not necessarily undo a current or past progression.  That beggars the question – how on earth can organizations make such changes and not know when or if such changes are going to be positive or negative?

This last point reminded me of a phrase I used a few years ago: organizational IQ.  I used that term to describe the overall IQ-capability of a firm.  As smart people join, the organizational IQ grows.  When smart people leave, the organizational IQ drops.  When folks who are conflicted and not innovative leave, maybe that organizational IQ actually increases.  Turns out I wrote about this before – see:

Sounds like a good topic for the next research community.

Category: organizational-iq  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a research vice president and agenda manager for MDM and Analytics at Gartner. His main research focus is master data management (MDM) and the drill-down topic of creating the "single view of the product" using MDM of product data. He was co-chair… Read Full Bio

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