12 Steps to Reduce Responsible Data Overwhelm

by | Sep 26, 2020 | Change, ICT4D |


‘I sense my anxiety and overwhelm rising. A bit daunted really. We’re doing more and more digitally, which is great. Helps me manage the project even better. But then I read some of your stuff about responsible data and so on. It freaked me out a bit. I don’t know where to start.’

Jean works hard to implement his project according to a tight schedule. She prides herself in managing her project and team well. And it shows. So her request to talk was surprising to me.

We talked for a while about her projects, her team and her anxiety. Jean is amazing so it was such a privilege to hear some of her stories. And in the end, we talked about a few concrete steps for her to take and had a number of calls to follow up on what she was learning.

Here are the 12 steps we walked through to reduce her overwhelm and enabling her to take action. While every situation and organisation are different, the initial steps are similar:

  1. We talk about different definitions of ‘responsible organisations’
  2. I asked Jean to take 30 minutes to read through the ‘responsible data maturity model‘ and circle where her team is on each area. And I also asked her to get a few members of her team to do the same exercise.
  3. Then we had a group call discussing everyone’s results
  4. We gave each issue a rating out of 10 for perceived importance to improve (10 being very important) and a rating out of 10 for perceived ease to change (10 being very easy)
  5. Then we came up with a score for each topic by multiplying the two numbers together
  6. We discussed everyone’s top 5 and as a group choose a top 3
  7. Jean and I had a separate call where Jean choose one out of the three to start with. There was no right answer, we were seeking to start with one that can build momentum.
  8. We took the one back to the group and together defined what ‘success’ or ‘change’ the change we wanted to see in 1, 3, and 6 months.
  9. Then we identified key contributors or people to focus on.
  10. And listed out changes needed in people’s knowledge, in how people felt inside about the topic, what business choices (processes) needed to change, and discussed team culture. (This is always messy as the focus tends to be barriers, but it is essential to think about things to leverage as well.)
  11. Then we revisit our goals for months 1, 3, and 6 to check if they are realistic and adjust as needed.
  12. From here, Jean was off to the races, confident again as now it was familiar project planning.

In my parting words to Jean and her team, I encourage them to focus more on the emotions of themselves and the key contributors than on knowledge. It’s easy to find a template, to talk about the logic and rationale for this, but logic rarely invokes change. People will be anxious, fearful of getting it wrong, ashamed when things don’t go according to plan. Empathy is your secret weapon.

Use it daily.

Photo by Tim Mossholder


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