Tag Archives: people management

What do you mean Governance ?

Process Governance, Information Governance, Asset Governance, Data Governance, IT Governance – if you are working within a medium-to-large enterprise, there is a good chance you’ve heard of the term ‘governance’. Read on to learn more about the types that exist, and some conceptual details about each.

Common Governance Types (or “domains” that benefit from Governance)

Governance approaches and controls can be applied to almost any entity or subject that the organization has a practical reason to put control mechanisms or processes in place – whether it is for Regulatory Compliance or other operational benefits.

Corporate Governance

Starting at the highest level for a private organization (for public organization, it would be the the national Government, for example) is Corporate Governance – which can be defined as:

The operating model with rules and practices by which a board of directors ensures accountability, fairness, and transparency in a company’s relationship with all its stakeholders (financiers, customers, management, employees, government, and the community).

(many definitions exist – for reference)

Corporate governance is often a comprehensive look at both structures and relationships that determine the direction of the corporate entity. In this perspective, the shareholders and the management are the primary participants, other than the board of directors – which is typically a central role, at this governance level. Employees of the company also get a seat in many corporate governance settings, as well as representative parties of customers, suppliers, and creditors – working within the constraints of various legal/regulatory and ethical/institutional rules and regulations that may supersede whatever the manner of governance the corporation adopts.

Corporate Governance Framework – Wikimedia Commons

Information Governance

Providing a bit more ‘conservative’ perspective on the practice of putting in measures to mitigate the risk of incorrect or outright wrong information – is the level of information governance. There are multiple functions that need to be managed in how technologies are utilized, and typically as a partnership with Information Security organizations, programs are put in place to indicate:

  • What information is retained
  • Where it is stored
  • How long it is retained
  • Who has access (and what sort of access) to it
  • How that data is protected
  • How policies, standards, and regulations provide assurance

The challenge many organizations face is connecting these programs under one umbrella and correctly assigning ownership – sometimes to legal, sometimes to IT, and sometimes to compliance. Each organization is different, but in general, the following diagram describes the strategic vantage point the governance program can take:

Information Governance (simplified – click for more)

Operating information governance models may differ in structure or ordinal – but stakeholder perspectives hold true almost all the time. Partially due to the recent decades’ explosion of data volumes and the subsequent regulations and compliance-issues increases, traditional ‘records management’ capabilities failed to keep pace – requiring a more descriptive maturity model. This is due to the need for organizations to deal with many different standards and laws that apply to information handling, such as:

  • The Computer Misuse Act of 1990
  • The Data Protection Act of 1998
  • The Freedom of Information Act of 2000
  • The Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations of 2003
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • and more…

As information resources are effectively supporting the business goals, the organization can accomplish its strategic goals more efficiently – because information governance should not be just sponsored by executive leadership, but be led at the enterprise level. However, there are other moving blocks, as well.

Data Governance

The difference between information and data may not be as clear-cut as software and hardware assets. After all, information governance outlines responsibility and decision-making accountability – while data governance is focused on the management of unprocessed information (data) at the business-unit level, typically:

  • Availability (scope/delivery)
  • Usability (structure/semantic)
  • Integrity (referential/consistency)
  • Security (access/retention)

With the need for business intelligence, data governance has become a priority in many organizations to be able to produce reports to meet the regulatory needs. Irrespective of compliance needs (similar to Information Governance compliance needs) at the data level, organizations of medium-to-large sizes inevitably recognize that cross-functioinal tasks can no longer be implemented efficiently.

Notably, technical capabilities are more concentrated with fewer professionals in the industry – as technology advances have allowed for various levels of Information Technology (IT) to converge. Similar to software solutions engineering practice, governance at the data level now requires tactical deployment to be delivered to provide quick ‘wins’ and avert organizational fatigue from a larger, more monolithic exercise.


When doing more means having done less

While no one likes working with negative productivity, sometimes we will find ourselves  not contributing in a constructive manner but detracting to the overall productivity.  This can/will be discouraging.  Becoming sour at oneself or any others in the team in whom one recognizes as a negative contributor is just adding to the madness, however.  I feel the best way to get over it is to take a closer look at what happened, to prevent recurrence, as much as possible.

What is negative work?

The idea of negative work is not readily acceptable.  Someone can deliver zero productivity by ‘not working’ at all.  How does negative work happen?

Let’s go through an example.  An awful team-member that once worked with me.  The person made roughly 3 significant changes to the work process and output over his 7-month time there.  The result first:  first 2 changes simply did not improve any part of team-work and broke other processes and capabilities.  The 3rd change was to revert everything back, explicitly.

So adding a couple, then subtracting to revert the previous 2 may look like it’s zero productivity.   The point is that that multiple people had to also follow his mistakes until it was resolved.  Don’t take me wrong – the person was not of ‘junior’ caliber.  I would not be fair to expect net-positive productivity from the get-go, especially for a person who needs mentoring and leadership.  Experience was there, as well as the ability to explain his work – the person also had the title ‘senior’.  Others not only had to track down why something wasn’t going as planned, but had to figure out whether the issues they were seeing were the result of their work or someone else’s.  Since it’s not often that the person with the mistaken sense of correctness is up to fixing whatever is supposedly done wrong, the whole team had to discuss fixing the issue. The team had to collectively determine that none of the 2 changes were worth fixing and that the team was better off reverting those changes.

Across the entire team, the result was that a lot of hours were wasted.  The one member did zero net-work and also reduced others’ productivity.  Again, I’m not saying this is a special case or that it is inconceivable.

The other kinds…

There are also many workers who can make changes that work, but end up with a large amount of confusion or lack of clarity – that others have to spend a larger amount of time trying to understand how & why those changes are necessary.  To be sure, understanding why a change is needed and how the changed process or item leads to improvement is not always necessary – and often outside scope of many mid-to-entry level workers.  And for those whose work-scope includes such an understanding, it can be time-consuming, regardless of the quality of work.  But the degree of difficulty in understanding something does matter.

Yet another sort of productivity killer is sticking to workflows that are eating up time.  I once worked at a different company where we were trying to decide on using a new way to integrate multiple developer’s work-product.  The reason:  the method we were using was taking hours of whole-team discussion, when only subsets of the team were needed for many of the integration sessions.  This was before modern integration practices (such as continuous integration, devOps, etc.) proliferated, so we did this twice a week.  Most of the team were convinced using the new method would have brought it down to under an hour.  It did not go well.  It took the team 6 months to put the new method in place, because one influential team-member didn’t want to change the existing process and was able to veto major changes.

3 hours x 2 times a week x 6 months x 4 weeks a month = 144 hours

1 hour x 2 times a week x 6 months x 4 weeks a month = 48 hours

Essentially, 96 hours were wasted.  But that is just for each member of the team.  Multiplying 96 for each member of the team would show even more egregious waste of time that could have been spent on other items.  (one excellent reason why things like BPR – business process re-engineering – is a clear need in some situations)

Negative work –> Low Morale

Most people work to feel a sense of accomplishment, aside from making their ends meet. They want to feel like their time was spent on something worthwhile. That means delivering results that bring value to the business. Wasted time prevents that.

Most of us also want to work with talented people.  Working with someone who is a burden on the team is an emotional drain.  Not only does that one person act as an obstacle to achieving success for a given item, the influence of such a person can also make us feel we bring less value as a team.

The job market is one way to solve this problem: find another job.  This is obviously an undesired outcome for a company.  When one team-member leaves, there is bound to be an emotional instability in the rest of the team.  

Entrance of the negative worker

How do such people get hired, when it is apparent that the cost of a negative worker is so high?  An interview process sorely in need of improvement can be blamed for this.  But succumbing to the temptation to lower standards or considering attitude less important than aptitude is most likely the less talked about part.  

Sometimes a lot of work needs to be done very quickly.  If there are not enough human resources in the company to accomplish that goal, then more need to be hired – either in-house or external contractual.  If the job market is strong for workers, it will take longer to make a good hire – and this is when the temptation to lower hiring standards is strong.  When there is a lot of work, some management start hiring in panic-mode.  They think having more bodies in the project can only contribute to more work getting done.

While such a mentality may have been valid in the traditional/manual manufacturing era, it is now far from the truth.  The informational and technological capability of this era ensures that quality matters more than quantity, when it comes to productivity.  10 positive, well-communicating contributors may actually bring more value to the workplace than 100 of the mix.  

Desperate hiring will not solve the problem of tight timelines in projects.  There is a good chance that it will make it worse.  Negative workers will not only slow the team down, but they can cause your great producers to leave the company or team.  Sadly, the project will now be even further behind schedule.

The flip side – a manager

From management perspective, a way to get a sense of productivity is to measure the decrease in administrative workload.  More often than not, if management tasks take less effort to carry out, with same or more level in project results, that means someone (or something) is helping to do more by allowing the management to do less.  One common mistake is to recognise ‘not having to know’ as a way to  determine whether productivity is increasing.

Management is often related to delegating work.  In a Forbes article about increasing productivity through delegation there is even  a mention of a book, “Work Less, Do More:  The 14-day Productivity Makeover”.  Single 14-day period is by no means a guaranteed time to overhaul any environment, but a basic goal is required.  A good starting point is to understand how to delegate.

Delegating work is not a ‘you know what to do, so I do not need to’ approach.  Rather, it is closer to a ‘set it and forget it’ approach.  One needs to:

  • Choose the tasks to delegate
  • Pick the person to delegate to
  • Give clear assignments and expectations
  • Set a date and ways to follow progress
  • Delegate responsibility and authority, not just the task

A couple key factors in a management style that fosters team-building are:

  • Trusting those who you delegate work to
  • Giving credit publicly

People who micro-manage a team into decreased productivity are doing so, because they mistakenly believe that close scrutiny is same thing as attention to detail.  This failure to appreciate a team-member’s capability (potential or proven) is bi-directional, coming from lack of trust and fear of not getting credit for work done.


I recommend identifying characteristics in yourself first, that match the negative worker qualities.  Try to reduce the occurrence of exhibiting them.  Then determine how those efforts are paying off, all without involving anyone else.  When you are confident about a set of practices, or others commend you, that may be the right time to share the journey.

I would try to take the holistic approach – contemplate as both a delegator and the delegated.  Clarity in communication is always key, while committed responsibility is the path to walk.

I am interested in feedback and other ways of approach – for obvious reasons.


Nobody wants to hear the news that his/her superior or manager is quitting, except those who’re waiting in line for that exact position.

As our team was in starting on the next phase of our newest product, the first part of the news trickled in:

Entire global technology landscape will be overhauled, and some of infrastructure staff in IT will be absorbed into IBM.

This kinda news delivery is at best haphazard. First it used the words ‘entire’ and ‘overhaul’ in the same breath. It also only mentioned ‘some’ staff, in just the ‘infra’ team.

The management never had a situation like this, in all of the company’s history of several decades. The atmosphere in the software development team quickly turned to be utterly unproductive, within the next couple months, while the tech staff waited for additional clarification on how the news will manifest. In hind sight, the mood would have been better if more details were shared, in those early stages.

But with sweeping changes do not come details that most hope for. Instead come the high-level statements courting the keywords ‘efficiency’ and ‘opportunities of improvement’ – and it sure did not quelch the workers’ thirst for knowledge. Neither survival or direction seemed clear, to some.

Of course, some of voiced concerns over the “transformation” to line management, but no details followed.

So I began hearing cries of fear and foul, from everywhere, with rumors of people moving on, before the s**t hits the fan.

Luckily, the tech market was in high demand for the tech-stacks we were using, as well as the solution approach. All that we had to think was, “when should I make the choice, and on which offer?” But it’s usually not like this.

Then the management called for a team-wide meeting, and we expected good news – or at least direction or clarity. We were not so lucky in this respect.

Our manager, the director of the team, was announcing his resignation – although stipulating he will stay until the current project is finished.

Very disheartening news. The guy who had hired all of us was quitting, after announcements of a re-organization of the entire tech side of the company. Questions about why met answers that were both rather short and simple, again without much details.  For example, when I asked why he was quitting, when we were actually successful with the latest product launches, his answer was that he wanted to do something different, not in this company’s current industry.  He was the leader, the protector and the facilitator of the whole team, and he was letting it all go now.

Recruiting professionals’ emails in personal inboxes were more enticing now.  Some of them even mentioned stock (options or immediate) vesting rates, on top of higher base-salary and benefits package.  Few even had coverage on likes of techcrunch, as well as news of widely-known techs joining their company.

so who’s the new guy?

We now have several. To start off, Director of Dept. replacement, who is in a bit of water figuring stuff out these days. It’s been less than a month, and I feel for him. Not easy to roll in and ingest so much information.

Our replacement for a senior dev, who went onto a start-up in finance-technology, is actually more of a front-end focused web developer for now.

We should be getting new laptops. I got a title change, but work is to be the same for a while.