The Seven Deadly Sins of Information Management, Part 2: Greed

In my last post, I discussed the impact of wrath on IM projects. Today’s topic is the second of the deadly sins: greed.

Note that greed and sloth (to be discussed in a future post) are very different sins.

Now, let’s start off by getting our terms straight. By greed, I’m talking about the need for certain employees, groups, and departments to hoard data that ought to be shared throughout the organization. These folks are keeping for themselves what others want and/or need. For instance, consider Steve, a mid-level employee at XYZ who keeps key sales or customer data in a spreadsheet or a standalone database.

Or consider ABC a company that implemented a new system that, for different reasons, was never populated with legacy data. Barbara in Payroll holds key payroll information and will not willingly provide it to Mark in Accounting.

To be sure, organizational greed is hardly confined to data. I’ve seen many employees over the years refuse to train other employees or lift a finger to help a new hire or perceived enemy. Maybe they refuse to meet with consultants hired by senior management to re-engineer a process.

Understanding the Nature of Greed

I could go on with examples but you get my drift. Almost always, greed emanates from some fundamental insecurity within the offending employee. What’s more, at the risk of getting myself in a whole heap of trouble, I’ve found that more senior employees are more likely to be greedy. Now, this is a broad generalization and certainly does not apply across the board. I’ve seen exceptions to this general rule: young employees who wouldn’t share information and near-retirement-aged folks more than happy to show others what they know.

As employees become less secure about their jobs and themselves, they naturally start to think about the future–their futures. It’s just human nature. Many people understandably don’t want to be looking for jobs today. (This feeling increases as we age, what with many familial and personal responsibilities.) We realize that the grass is not always greener. For some of us, this manifests itself in a tendency to attempt to protect our jobs, departments, budgets, fiefdoms, and headcounts–at least until the perceived threat diminishes.

But there’s a critical and countervailing force at play for the greedy: Information wants to be free. As open-source software, open APIs, and open data sources continue to sprout, people are becoming less and less tolerant of employee bottlenecks. Those who refuse to play ball may be able to temporarily stall large-scale information management projects, but eventually, by hook or by crook, those damns always break.

Simon Says

I wish that I had a simple solution for resolving employee-related greed issues. I don’t. Many tomes have been written about managing difficult employees. At a high level, organizations can use two well-worn tools: the carrot and the stick. Consider rewarding employees who share information and knowledge while concurrently punishing those who don’t.

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What say you?

Next up: sloth.

Category: Information Development, Information Management, Information Strategy, Information Value
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