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Discerning an Organisation’s North Star

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“The system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance”

It can be hard for leaders to understand why their team members do not share the same vision of the organisation as they do. Businesses can find it hard to be clear on their joint ‘North Star’ when making decisions about their activities and in how they spend their time. This is particularly evidenced when looking at Business Intelligence projects where there is a requirement to focus on deriving value from business intelligence. How is it possible to reconcile the vision with the actual reality in everyday life?

Sometimes there can be a real arrogance in mid-management because they are dismissive of the leader as not understanding the reality in some way It comes down to the vision that people have, as individuals; having a view that’s closer to operations is not the same as having a longer-term view. The can can take decisions that move away from generating value, and it can be difficult to repoint them back towards repeating any initial successes.

What steps can you take in order to reconcile the visions, and derive value from data?

If a vision is provisional, then leaders need to say that they are drafting their views and teams are welcome to support the vision by providing input and experience. This promotes honesty and transparency.

Have a Business-First Attitude

Teams can foster a business-First attitude. Doing business analysis and investing effort up front with the business will help you to save time later If team members are subtly or actively discouraging other team members to adopt this business-oriented perspective, then they risk being left behind.

Going from Please to Thank You

Business Intelligence projects should be focused on going from Please to Thank You. There should be a focus on ‘Going from Please to Thank You’ when delivering projects; business value and success should be put at the front-and-centre of business intelligence delivery from start to finish, with an emphasis on getting a ‘Thank You’ from the business user for a job well done.

Implementing a Cloud Centre of Collaboration framework

Consider implementing a framework that can help with collaborating with the business and technical teams to understand their viewpoints and inputs because it is a valuable way of understanding the business.

Implement innovation through safe-to-fail projects

Innovation is a value creation process that begins with ideas and ends once a product or service is successfully launched.

The vision can then formalized fully by the leader with other Board level leaders recommending the need for a plan, a data strategy and proposing ideas and suggestions and trying to encourage the team to take this course of action.

This means that we have to be kind. The public diminishing of the efforts of team members serves to create and perpetuate an environment where individual efforts are devalued. 

Revision Projects in a Product Management perspective

Business Intelligence projects can be recast in a Product Management perspective. Sometimes, leaders need to refocus teams back towards generating value, rather than seeing projects as a hobby or a self-indulgent training exercise that does not add value to the organisation.

Value can be obtained by implementing ‘stage gates’ to measure success, and revisioning the project in a product management perspective. One ‘stage gate’ to be considered is that the teams should focus on getting pre-production system in place, and a subsequent ‘gate’ is that the team should focus on getting a production system live. If there are issues, then these need to be articulated, put into the backlog and resolved.

Badly implemented agile, or even waterfall in disguise?

Everyone seems to have a different understanding of agile, it seems. Whether deliberate or unintentional, teams can display misunderstandings over the application of agile methodologies while thinking that they are following an agile methodology while continuing to exhibit a preference for waterfall methodologies in practice. If the sprints are all about ‘research’ and ‘documentation’ and a ton of meetings, this could be a waterfall project disguised as agile.

Clarity on Decisions

The DAMA Definition of a data strategy is as follows: “set of choices and decisions that together, chart a high-level course of action to achieve high-level goals.”

Using this definition as a starting point, there is one important item missing at the some organisations: Decisions. A data strategy involves making decisions to direct focus, and to point the organization towards extracting value from the data. Teams should not follow a pattern of decisions that provide little value, or directing themselves towards tasks that have little or no purpose or value.

Stop the ‘If Then Buts’ conversations to make an actual plan

The philosopher William James noted that “thinking is for doing,” meaning that the purpose of us knowing things is to enable us to act in accordance with that knowledge. Many conversations revolve about ‘if then buts’ about technology and data and if there is no clear owner of the issue, then this can be a manifestation of the Bystander Problem: it is someone else’s problem and someone else will deal with it. Issues can be ruminated on many times, but never pushed forward. 


A vision is crucial to getting people onboard. However, if teams are going off in a different direction, these are a few ways which, joined together, can be redirected to point back towards the North Star set out as the vision: deriving value from data, gaining insights, reducing costs and maximising opportunities from becoming a data-driven organization. IT teams need to prove their relevance by showing success and striving to understand the business perspective; putting the Business back into Business Intelligence. 

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