CDO Matters Ep. 37 | Understanding and Navigating Change with Dan Everett

November 16, 2023

Episode Overview:

Many CDOs are hired with the expectation they’ll become the ‘Chief Change Agent’ for their companies – helping to transform old and outdated approaches to data and business management to more digital, efficient, and scalable onesOn this mission many CDOs will most certainly encounter resistance at every level, requiring a deeper understanding of what makes change so difficult.

In this 37th episode of the CDO Matters podcast, join Dan Everett as he helps to explain why people are uncomfortable with change, and how modern data leaders can better lead their organizations through it.

Episode Links & Resources:

Good morning, afternoon, or evening. I am Malcolm Hawker head of data strategy with Profisee software and host of the CDO Matters podcast.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for joining. Thank you for watching. Wherever you may be consuming the content, Apple Google Spotify or on YouTube or wherever, even the Profisee dot com website. Thank you for, for listening in. Today, I am joined by my friend, and I can say that because I’ve known you long enough to qualify as a friend, I think.

I didn’t wanna be the only one who considered the other. No. You’re not my best friend. You’re not my best friend.

But but anyway, Dan Everett. Dan, it it’s great to see you, Dan. Is the owner, insightful research? Yes.

That is the name of your company? Insightful research. Yes. Insightful research.

I’ve known Dan for, I think, better, almost four years, because I I was trying to think the other day of when I met you. And it was more than likely we at least met on email If not face to face, in late twenty nineteen when I had joined Gartner and you were at informatica.

Yes. And I came we came down to, Austin, and we went out to dinner. Yes. This this that’s true. So so informatica has a, had actually had just opened a new office in Austin, in North Austin.

And I do recall that it was like unseasonably cold. When when we met. I so I think it may have actually been right around this time of year. Yeah.

And, and, you know, I was getting to know the space, getting to know the people and and you were at informatica, and that’s when I first would have met. And then we interacted for entire Most of the my entirety of almost three years at Gartner. Yeah. I mean, I don’t think there was a time where you weren’t involved with MDM at Gartner.

Right? No. I was I was there. Was talking to VM, data governance.

I think either that was one of the things where we really connected was sort of like, you know, data governance and MDM is like, you know, chocolate and peanut butter or peanut butter and jelly or whatever analogy you wanna use. Right?

Need both. So Peeze and carrots. Yeah. Peeze and carrots. I’m not a vegetable guy. You can tell. You know better peanut butter and jelly.

Yeah. What what was what was your what was technically what was your role at infrared? Was it it was like it’s product marketing. Right?

Yes. I was I was head of product marketing. So I started out. I had data governance, data privacy, and MDM, and then towards the end there, was just focused on MDM because it’s just such a large part of the business and so core to I mean, really data management.

Right? Your those are your core business entities. Yeah. You know, and those aren’t those aren’t right.

Your process processes don’t work and your analytics are wrong and all the things that we talk about all the time. Yeah. Day in day out increasingly so much so, on LinkedIn.

I was looking at your history and I don’t know if I knew this at the time, but you were at SAP for ten years. Yes.

So was that was were you were you in the in the Bay Area the entire time? Because you you you know, as a resident or the Bay Area, were were you were you? Is is that where you were working for SAP? Mhmm. Yeah. In parallel. What did you do for them?

So started out. I was doing product marketing for, small mid size business solutions, but more focused on, analytics and data management and then went to the enterprise information management team. Okay. Where I did data governance and MDM and CDO, all of those things. So So so to make a long story short, Dan Dan has a a accomplished career in the data management space from from a software perspective.

And that some of the things that I I I valued the most was was at least from the perspective of being at Gartner when you were at informatica.

I I always kind of viewed you as a voice of reason, not to say that people aren’t reasonable.

But but I always kind of viewed you as the voice of reason. And in our conversations, if I was being critical, you kind of acknowledge. Yeah. That may be somewhere where we could improve or not improve.

But I really I I really in my in my time at Gartner, I had a wonderful time, and I got to meet a lot of people my relationship with you was one that always kinda stood out because I always every time I got off the phone with you, I was like, okay. That that guy’s just so reasonable. He’s, like, he just sees both sides of the equation, and the things that he talks about the complete sense, and and he’s rational, and his arguments are well for formed. So Thank you.

Yeah. That’s that’s that’s I appreciate.

I always try, you know, a long time ago, I’m I’m old. So long time ago.

Yeah. I I read, Stephen Covey’s, you know, seven habits highly effective people. And one of them was, you know, seek first to understand and then be understood.

So I’ve always carried that with me for a long time. Like, And that doesn’t mean I have to agree with somebody, right, but really trying to listen to their point of view.

And, like, why do they Why do they have that point of view? You know, what’s their what’s their facts? What are their assumptions? What’s their logic behind it?

So that you can actually have a dialogue. Right? I I think that’s okay. We’re gonna go on big topics here now, but that’s what we’re here for.

The issue in our society right now is that we’re so polarized around points of view that we we can’t even listen to the other side right, to try and understand why do they hold that point of view. Right? It’s just like you hold that point of view and you’re wrong. My mine is right, and you should come over to my side as opposed to, you know, it it used to be we would have conversations about things.

Right? And then we could If we understand where the other people are coming from, we can try and move, you know, to some sort of, like, yeah, this will work for everybody versus it’s my way or the highway.

I I I love it because, you know, I’ve I’ve had to learn I don’t host a podcast. And I think for anybody who’s listening to me or listening more than one episode, they’re like, yeah. No kidding. It seems like a long way to go.

But I mean, I your words kinda struck me. Not not because there’s There’s there’s broader societal issues at play here. There most certainly are broader societal issues at play here that that I think we need to be talking more about.

I was born and raised in Canada. I spent my first twenty five years in Canada, and I’ve spent the last twenty plus That’s all real gray hair there, people.

In in in this country and, meaning the United States, And I had to kind of adjust to things here. And what are the the the things that was the most jarring maybe for lack of a better word was the kind of the the the the the kind of the binary nature of the left and right.

The the conservative, you know, liberal, red, blue with me against me, like this this kind of this notion that You’re either on the left or you’re on the right, you’re one or the two, or you’re you’re you’re this or you’re that. Cause I was born and raised in in at least under a political kind of world where there’s multiple parties. There’s multiple points of view. There’s multiple perspectives.

There isn’t just two. There’s there’s there’s any one given perspective has multiple points of view. And so there’s that. And then then the other thing that that was normal for me growing up was, you know, like you you had a conversation about big lofty issues, right, like maybe politics or state of the economy or or whatever.

You’d have those conversations at dinner. It’d be normal. You’d have them at family conversations. You’d have them at like Thanksgiving dinner and you could walk away.

And and have a heck of an argument, but you you didn’t wanna, you know, you you you didn’t think less of the person. Right? You’re still my family afterwards.

But then I’m gonna disown you.

Well, well, that may happen for different reasons. I don’t I don’t know, but but I mean, I’ve I’ve found that to be different, but so when I get a chance to talk to people like you, may maybe that’s what it was and maybe that’s what it is and maybe that’s what I kinda saw was was that there was some sort of chemical reaction in me saying, okay. Well, this guy this guy is reasonable and and he’s he seeks to listen before speaking.

Not because I wanted to bully the conversation, but I think that in and of itself is is worthwhile. Like like the idea of listening So you so you can hear versus listening so you can respond. Right. Because that’s that’s the way the brain works.

Right? A lot of time. Like, if you if you watch your mind, the the story your mind tells. Right?

Like somebody says something and then your thinking about you start thinking about, oh, I wanna respond to that. And so the brain can only hold, like, maybe five to seven concepts, the the prefrontal cortex, the conscious thinking part.

So you you hold on to thing that you wanna say, but then you miss everything else that the person is saying.

Right? Because you wanna respond.

Yeah. Exactly.

Sorry. What? Yeah.

Well, it’s not it’s not even it’s not even what. It’s well, when you said blah blah blah, Yeah. You’re you’re wrong because x y z.

So so this brings us to to to, I mean, I guess the the the nexus, not the nexus or what or whatever. Like, in your in your post informatica, what’s what’s the world? What’s the way to describe it in in your renaissance? Perhaps.

It it doesn’t ever in your in your renaissance? I’ve I’ve been telling people I would say my retired, my wife doesn’t like that. Oh, oh, okay. I’m gonna set my retirement, but I like Renaissance.

Renaissance’s. Renaissance is good. Yeah. Temv too. Right? Okay. In in your Renaissance, Let’s go with that.

A part of some of the things that you’re focusing on, you your your tagline on on on LinkedIn is the techno Optimus, which I really enjoy.

But some of the things that you’ve been obviously doing research on and spending a lot of time thinking about in your renaissance, are kind of a little different than than what we usually do day in and day out in in a data world. You did you gave a presentation at the CDO IQ conference at in Boston earlier this summer that I attended. I was the guy in the back row doing the, like, doing the wave.

But where you kind of talked about some of these things like, you know, resistance to change and how the brain process is thought. So I wanna hear more about that.

But what drove you that direction? So you’re you’re, you know, like a senior leader in a product marketing function talking about positioning and pricing and branding and creating narratives around data management and data management software, what what drove that fork in the road?

Yeah. So that fork in the road came when I found out that my son, my oldest son had autism.

So then that that started a work of, like, trying to understand how the brain works.

How processes information, and that’s what that’s what started that for, would be twenty seven twenty seven years ago. So a long time, but it was really a few years.

You know, the, Randy Bean and and New Vantage partners, you know, they’ve been doing their survey for, I think it’s eight years now. Yep. And, I don’t know. Maybe four five years ago, but a few years ago, right? It, like, the number one challenge is people in behavior and culture.

Right? And throughout the eight years that they’ve been doing it, that’s been the number one challenge. Right. Yep.

Right? Like, by at least eighty percent. This year it went down a little bit because everybody’s concerned about technology and LLMs and what do we do with generative AI? But but, like, it’s still like, I think in this year’s that’s the technology part is twenty percent and and people and behavior is still eighty percent.

Right? So, like, four times a bigger problem.

Right? But then you go and look at people’s data strategy and, like, I don’t know, one percent, maybe, of the data strategy is around people and and it’s really mostly about, like, how do we set up some processes and how do we train people? But it’s nothing about, like, what what are the real reasons why people aren’t changing. Right? There’s because there’s a psychology of change management, and that’s really what I’ve been talking about is the psychology of change management. And I’ve been trying to think of some really, you know, good, catchy phrase to call it, you know, like brain literacy.

Your product marketer, man. This is this is your thing. I I know, but, like, you know, we’ve had this conversation before about data literacy. Like, you don’t need data literacy.

They need business literacy. You don’t need a data strategy. You need a business strategy. Right?

So you know, adding one more thing. You need to know brain literacy.

But but but but but but but branding does matter. Right. But branding does matter. But but, you know, I’m a I’m a simple guy, and I like to use simple words. And really, it’s about the psychology of change management.

And so so the so so the fork Yeah. On on the one hand, going back almost twenty seven years, you you’ve got this side hustle for that’s a horrible way of describing it, but you’ve got this other passion of trying to figure out how things are working in your son’s brain. Mhmm. And and so you got that.

And then you got your day job of data management, data strategy, data culture, all of those other things. And so that’s when things kinda came together, post informatica, dance, renaissance, hey, let’s put these things together. I think I’ve got something to share. Mhmm.

Okay. Yeah. I mean, it it it sort of came together before that, but, you know, I mean, you know how it is when you’re working a full time job at a software company.

There is no free time. Right? So, you know, the the those things were there, but, you know, now it’s I’ve got the opportunity to sort of crystalize them more and you know, write write about them and, and those sorts of things. And I’m I’m really enjoying it and you know, people seem to be receptive to it when I did it at enterprise data world, earlier this year, I I got the feedback from it and, you know, it was like four point eight, and I think the average session was four point five.

So I feel good about that. Good for you. I didn’t get any feedback from that session. So there you go.

That’s because MDM is dead. Long live MDN.

Okay. We we can return to that because I actually I think I like that topic. By by the way. Because there’s something about maybe about the psychology of killing things.

Mhmm. Maybe. I don’t know. We seem to really wanna kill MBM. I don’t know why.

But but getting back to the psychology of change. For sure.

You your your presentation put the psychology changed through the lens of kind of data culture or or or culture.

Because I I think it’s it’s true to say that most data leaders would say they need to change the culture.

And to do that, I think what you would say is you need to change the people quite obvious.

Right. But what is it that makes us not wanna change? Why don’t why don’t we why don’t we why do we dislike change or why is change so hard? Right. So there are there are two separate information processing systems in the brain.

So one is the prefrontal cortex, which is this very thin layer right on the front of your you know, brain. So don’t head butt people.

But and and so that’s the sort of the logical evaluating part of the brain, right, where we take facts and we look at them and we analyze them and we make decisions. And there’s another part called the limbic system and its sole purpose is survival.

So within the limbic system, there’s an area called the, amygdala.

So the amygdala is like this little machine learning algorithm, and its whole job is to resolve uncertainty as quickly as possible if something is a threat or not. And it uses generalization assumption and approximation to just decide if something is a threat.

Right? So I’m at the watering hole orange stripes Tiger fleet. It may or may not be a Tiger. Right?

But from a survival perspective, I don’t wanna go or does it have fur, does it have tail? Oh, look, it has it has fangs in claws, oh, I’m lunch. Right? So resolving uncertainty as quickly as possible is its whole job.

So the brain hates uncertainty.

Right? And any kind of change is uncertainty.

Change by default, we we don’t know. Right? And and brain science, there’s been a lot in the last fifteen years, a lot of research around this.

And unknown outcome is more stressful than a known bad outcome.

So this is they rip the band aid off. Right. Right. And and and it’s so pervasive.

And it operates on a different it has its own set of neural pathways. So it’s like its own separate system.

Right? So it happens and you don’t even realize that it’s happening.

So if somebody cuts you off in a car, you slam on the brakes.

Right? And and you’re not going well, how fast am I going? How far is he from me? Right? You just automatically slam on the brakes.

And then you don’t even think about it. Right? You don’t think about, like, oh, well, how did I do that. It just happened. Right? And then you you move on and you’re really not consciously aware of how the amygdala is making decisions for you.

So So but as a leader, can I override that?

How do I reprogram that? Or how do how do I at the very least mitigate that? Right. So I’m I’m hired as a change agent. Right. And and I’m supposed to be driving change.

Mhmm. And I have a bunch of people whose whose fight or flight responses have been triggered because there’s here’s the new person who’s brought in that in and of itself, a new new leader Right? Could be, oh, whoa. Was my job gonna be okay?

Everything gonna be okay. Exactly. Right. Alrighty. You may be in a semi triggered state as it were for lack of a better word.

Right. And I’m that new data leader. What how do I work around that? How do I mitigate that?

Yeah. So, excuse me.

The there tends to be. So there’s been some research that shows that they the amygdala, it’s it responds to social threats. And those social threats tend to be around status, you know, you know. I’m gonna lose my title.

Right. I’m gonna lose my title. Autonomy, Right? Like, I’m not gonna have control in how I do things.

Right? Relationships, you know, we’re we’re splitting up teams and you’re going into a new team. Well, I just I I got all these relationships, with people. And then fairness, Right?

Like, is the process fair.

So those tend to be, like, big buckets where people get triggered.

And so and we respond we respond to all of those. We get triggered by all of those, but some of them are more intense of a response for people than others. Like for me, relationships are a big trigger.

So like when my wife and I get in a fight, like, I wanna go fix it. And for my wife, autonomy is a big trigger. So when I go to one and go fix it, she she feels like I’m impinging on her autonomy.

So it makes for a very interesting dynamic.

But if you understand that, like, those tend to be the the big buckets of triggers, right, then you can think about, okay, if I’m gonna go have a conversation, we’re moving to a data products approach. Right?

And I’m gonna go have a conversation with Malcolm who’s been building reports for his boss, right, Well, maybe he there’s probably a sense of status around that, right, because the boss relies on you to build the reports. Right? So instead of going in, like, Hey, I’m I got this great news for you. You don’t have to build those reports anymore, right, which would probably trigger a threat response.

It’s like, you know, first validate their status. Like, hey, you’ve done a great job in building those reports for your boss. Your organization is a top former because of it, we’re moving to this new data products approach. We’d like to take all the things that you’ve been doing, right, and provide more value with data and analytics to more people.

Right? So it’s a different conversation. Now that doesn’t mean somebody won’t get triggered.

Right? But if you’re thinking about how might this be perceived as a threat to somebody’s status or their autonomy right? Or their relationships or or fairness, right? Then that’s how you start to mitigate some of these some of these threats.

Well, I think you just described why the data mesh may be successful.

You just appeal to people’s autonomy and you and you appeal to their sense of of of of fairness and status. You get to build your own reports however you wanna do it, knock your knock yourself out, you define what’s fair, you define the governance policies, and you know, you you you you now get to kinda wear that that anyway.

We’re gonna go we’re gonna go wild wild stuff.

No. No. No. No. Well, that’s a data match. Malcolm Malcolm West and What was it, Jim Westman?

What was the other guy? Artimus Gordon and and David Gordon. We’re we’re we’re we’re dating ourselves here.

No. No. We’ll Smith did a remake. People will know that. Oh, okay. Okay. That’s true.

We’ll dismiss it. They did do a remake of the wild noise. That’s that’s correct.

Let’s let’s assume that I am triggered.

Mhmm. And my amygdala has gone berserk and I’m I’m freaked out. Mhmm. And, I’m I’m kind of in this some sort of state of fight or flight.

Yeah. Basically every time I log in or go through the front door, what what does what does that mean? Is that does that make me, like, am I there? They’re gonna am I unreceptive?

Am I am I mutinous? Like, what am I gonna do? Like, am I gonna, like It could be a broad range of things. Right?

It could be simply you’re not engaged.

Right? It could be your passively resistant, like Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Sure. Whatever. But then when nobody’s looking, I’m gonna do whatever the f I want.


Or or it could be actively, like, trying to sabotage. Right? Like recruiting other people to join them and say, hey, This is this is unfair.

You know, and so, like, so that I just saw this gallop pole, and they were saying that, I wanna say it was like sixty five, seventy percent of employees are are disengaged with work.

And that disengagement equates to, like, eight or nine trillion dollars, which is like nine percent of global GDP.

So it’s a big issue.

So this is this I mean, this is kind of like the quiet quitting thing. Right? Yeah. Yeah.

It is like the quiet quitting thing. Right. Like, I’m just gonna do the absolute positive bare minimum and fly under the radar and do whatever I need to do. Hopefully, it’ll get fired.

So let’s let’s assume So as as a CDO, I’ve been hired as a change agent. Sometimes CDOs are hired as operators. Right? It’s just put put the shovel in the ground and build a report. Right? Sometimes that’s true. But moreover these days, you you were expected to be a change agent.

Yeah. And sounds to me like what you’re saying is that as a part of the definition of a data strategy or it’s certainly the operationalizing of a data starter strategy, the operating model, implementation of these three things that you talked about right, the sense of status and fairness and equity would would need to be deeply interwoven into how you actually implement.

What what what does that from a tactical perspective? What does that equal? Does that equal things like, you know, a lot of town hall meetings? Does that does that equal, like, you know, regular newsletters, like, what what, like, brass tacks, tactically, what what what what form would these things take as as a part of the implementation of anything a CDL would be doing. So it’s it’s a lot around the the communication process.

So one of the one of the triggers is is fairness.

Now in every organization, there are people that are they don’t have formal authority, but they’re the people that the peers look up to and reference. Right? To say, hey, I’m just keep Sorry. Is that my daughter or your dog?

No. That’s my dog. What’s my dog? Yeah. Oh, it could be in mine. I’ve got two of them.

It’s not just like that. K. Yes.

So the dog doesn’t think it’s fair.

Where’s my train?

No. But so in every organization, right, there are people that are they are not informal authority, but they’re the people that peers look up to in reference to, like, hey, is this fair or not? Influences as it were. Right. Your influences. Right. So you wanna go find those people and you wanna recruit them onto your side because they will help bring their peer group along.

Right? So that’s that’s one strategy.

In terms of autonomy, you know, asking people for input you know, beforehand and and really taking it into consideration is helpful because people feel like they have some ownership skin in the game, right, if if their input is taken out, you know, you don’t wanna do that if you know that, you know, Dana has already come in.

And done this big assessment, and the CEO is in there in the town hall meeting, right, telling us how we’re gonna roll this all out. And does anybody have any input in every way is going, you’re right.

You know, people people know, like, if you’re just BSM. So you you clearly don’t wanna do that. But if you can give them the opportunity to provide some input, right, that that’s definitely gonna help. Right? And when bane and those big guys come in, you know, either people don’t feel comfortable and really saying what they think Right? Or by the time all the input gets rolled up, things get lost. Right?

So people, you know, on the street, you know, the feet on the street, they have some great ideas on how to how to change things.

But if you but if you can’t do that, can you give them freedom within a bounded context. Right? So, like, you know, here’s here’s your context. Right?

And here’s the resources that you have Here’s the people that you have. Here’s the things you can’t do. You can’t do these things. But outside of that, you can use those people in the resources any way that you want to get the outcome that we’re looking for.

Right? And then people, again, right? Like, I have ownership. I have some ownership and some say.

Right? Yes. We’re we’re still making a change, right, and it’s still having an impact.

But can you give them some freedom in how they go and execute.

So that’s another strategy.

Love it. The one thing I would add, and this is kind of inferred with what you just said.

But I wanna be overt about it.

Which is what the the subtext of what I just heard you say is that authenticity and sincerity from the leadership perspective has to be a part of the equation here. Right? Like like engaging people for their input, that can’t be just a check box that actually has to be sincere. You have to be authentic about that, and you have to take the feedback to the degree that that you have you have you are within your boundaries to do so.

Right? Quite obviously, you’re not gonna solicit fee. You may get feedback on your overall business strategy, but maybe you you you you’re unable to to influence that because maybe it’s coming directly from your board. Right.

So to the degree to for whatever scope you have. Right. That needs to be that that enterprise needs to be authentic because people will see through that pretty quickly. If it’s just a checkbox, right, like, you know, like, I’m just here to give you ideas and I know darn well that they’re not gonna get implemented and they’re not they’re not really been hearing you.

I’m just here to check a box. Right. Sounds sounds like that’s an important piece of the equation here is to be authentic and be sincere about that enterprise. Absolutely.

Right? I mean, that’s what builds trust. I don’t know. If you’ve ever seen Simon Scinek.

You know, he’s got this thing, with the with the military, right, of, like, would you take the the person that is the most skilled and proficient.

Right? But but you don’t trust them? Versus the guy that’s good enough, but I know in a fight he’s got my back. I’m gonna take the guy who’s got my back every single time.

Right? Yeah. I don’t care how good that guy is. If he’s not watching my back.


Love it.

So let’s let’s go broader on on culture because I I think we’ve I’ve got we I think we’ve got some real challenges and I’d I’d love your input.

And a lot of the conversations I’ve had around culture, particularly when I was at Gartner, this this is a common topic by the way.

You know, I need to change the culture. I need to change the culture. This is a CDL VP data in analytics. Doesn’t matter. I I need to change the culture.

And I am and I’m feeling kind of for lack of a better word. Hamstrung by it or maybe a victim to it or or I I heard over and over again, the the idea that culture was something outside the data team, that it was it was culture was out there and I need and then I needed to change it.

But what I saw so I saw that. Okay. And then what I also saw were behaviors within the data team that were completely contrary to the culture that the data leader said that they wanted to promote. Mhmm. I’ll give I’ll I’ll I’ll give you an example.

Being data driven.

We we could have an interesting academic dis discussion about what that actually means. And is it too pithy? And is it okay. Whatever doesn’t matter. I think we can all generally agree that the idea here is that you use data to make decisions, right, that that you are making fact based decisions.

Not Intuit intuition driven decision. Right? Like, I think that’s kind of high level what what most people would kind of say, yeah, that that makes sense. That’s really kind of what we’re trying to get to where it’s not gut. It’s not intuition. It’s data. It’s facts that we’re using to make decisions about whatever.

So you’d have a data lea leader brought on as a change engine.

And saying I need to change the the culture.

Mhmm. But then what I would see within data and non alerts groups is not doing the same.

Meaning, you would ask how much revenue is this change in your data function going to drive the organization? I don’t know. How do you prioritize?

Basically, it’s whoever screams the loudest. Right? Or it’s whatever they tell me to do. It doesn’t have anything to do with revenue, doesn’t have anything to do with cost savings. Right? How how do you how do you make decisions about what data is more important than others?

Well, we we don’t. We we or or we just follow gut or intuition. So what I saw was data leader saying, do this.

You need you out there need to be data driven, but here?

We’re gonna use intuition to prioritize. We’re gonna use gut to prioritize. We’re not really gonna we we’re not even gonna try to clock the business value of the of the data or the solutions that we implement, because that’s really too hard. It’s where it’s impossible to hear that all the time. So I I would see the situation where it’s do what we say, but don’t do what we do. Mhmm. If that’s true, Dan, through the research you’ve been doing, what would the negative ramifications of that be?

Well Well, first of all, do do do you agree with the assertion and I said it in such a rhetorical way you probably would be difficult to disagree. But, like, what what’s your what’s your what’s your overall response? Now now you can just respond. You don’t even have to think.

You could just respond. Yeah. So my my overall response is, okay, if we if we think about culture, like, let’s let’s try and narrow in on what culture is a little bit. Right?

So think about Okay. Good. Good approach. Yeah. Let’s let’s think about some big buckets of of things that influence culture.

So one of them is beliefs. Right? So from a from an organizational perspective, right? That could be, you know, your vision, your mission statement, your values.

Right? I’d say that probably all organizations have those. Either implicitly or explicitly.

Another influence is organization.

So roles, responsibilities, processes, how we communicate with each other. So what language do we use? So language of business, language of IT? What channels do we use to communicate? What’s the structure of it? Can I do I have to go up the hierarchy chain of command or can, you know, is it more of a matrix type of communication, and then customs, you know, and and again, right, if I’m trying to think about that in terms of a business, your policies, your procedures, your ethics? Right?

I would say that most organizations have all of those things in place, either implicitly or explicitly.

Right. Agreed. Right?

And yet, we still say we don’t have the culture that we want because at the end of the day, culture is actually the collective behavior of individuals.

That’s what that’s what culture is. Right? It’s how do people behave as individuals. Right? And then collectively, right, those individuals within an organization, that forms the culture.

So we can put all of those things into place to influence culture. But at the end of the day, we still have to go back and understand why aren’t people adjusting to our new processes?

Right? Why aren’t people adhering to our ethics and values?

Right? What’s what’s preventing them what’s preventing their behavior from changing.

It all goes back to how the how the brain interprets threats.

If we address how the brain interprets threats, then we’re gonna we’re gonna move towards the culture that we want.

Now I I see you’re thinking about this. So I’ll give you a minute to think about this. And and then I’ll I have another My theory no. But my theory based on the previous rants is that or my my little mini rat My my theory is is that people will be less likely and maybe this is about leadership more than culture. I I I don’t know. Mhmm.

But my theory is that people will be far less likely to follow you if they think you talk out of two sides of your mouth.

Right? If they if they if they Yes. Absolutely. If you hear Yeah. That’s a trust issue.

Right? Right. If you say one thing and then tomorrow you say something that’s completely opposite, or you say that data matters and that we want to use data to make, you know, facts to make decisions, but then you don’t use facts to make decisions. That that to me, that’s an integrity issue.

But if if if if I do believe that culture in many ways or maybe lack, maybe I’m not using the right word, but if you have a leader that has those behaviors and is modeling those behaviors, you will have a team that models those behaviors. So, and and at some point, you will have a culture that no longer serves its purpose.

Right. Okay. Whatever whatever whatever leaders model is what employees uses the basis for appropriate behavior.

Yeah. And then the collective behavior of all those individuals creates your culture.

Okay. Okay. I’ll give you another I’ll give you something else that I think is is a little problematic.

And so can I go ahead? Follow-up on one other thing? Yeah. Yeah.

So that the amygdala creates these threat responses, right, which I talked about, but also because its whole job is to resolve uncertainty as quickly as possible.

We get bias in decision making. So, for example, I’m not gonna use data, right, because my experience tells me I should do this.

Right? And part of that is because I’m trying to resolve the uncertainty as quickly as possible.

Which is a natural response. Which is a natural response. Right? Which is what the amygdala wants to do.

I I wanna resolve the uncertainty about this as quickly as possible. Well, I’ve got tons of experience, and I’ve already done this, and we should do this. Right? Now that experience is valuable, and I’m not saying that it’s not.

But you have to take time to step back and say, okay.

What facts do we actually have?

Right? What data? What facts do we have? Right?

What assumptions are we making?

Right? Because I I am making assumptions when I when I’m Right. So this goes back to my post and my fab ass my fab ass model of, of getting cognitive bias out of your decision making.

Right? How are we how are you sure you were with product marketing? Just just wanna be sure. You you you just kidding.

Well, I tried to come up with an I tried to come up with an acronym with bad ass. My bad ass. Oh, okay. Okay.

Okay. Okay. But I had to go had to go with, like, what was the actual things? Right?

Facts, biases, biases. Okay.

Okay. So that’s the but I mean, you get my point. Right? Yes. That the amygdala is also the source of of all bias in humans, right, cognitive, but all kind of it’s it’s the source and everything else gets layered on top of that.

So that gets pulled into our decision making, either experienced bias or, safety bias, right? We we don’t, you know, Well, okay. I know, you know, used to be the old saying I know if I go with IBM, I’m not gonna get fired. Right?

You know, kind of thing. Right? Whether the facts are, that was the best solution or not.

Right? So that’s where that’s where it also gets played out in the I’m not using data to actually make decisions. And how do we go back?

Or how do we step back, right, and say, you know, what what are the facts? What assumptions are we making here? What are their facts that we’re missing?

How are we what biases do we have? Right? For example, I have a bias towards a particular outcome, right, when we’re making a decision. So then I’m gonna take all the facts that I have, and I’m gonna create a story and a narrative that support the biased outcome that I want. Right?

And so we need to look at all of those things and how we’re making decisions, right, if we actually wanna be more data driven, fact driven in our decision making. That so that sounds like a, you know, awareness.

Self awareness. Right? It all starts with awareness. Yes. Yeah. The the you you as a data leader, if if you are on the verge of making a decision based on intuition when you don’t necessarily have to.

Ask yourself why. If the question is is because if I don’t answer this question in the next fifteen minutes. I’m gonna lose my status or I’m I’m going to lose relationships or whatever. Right?

Like, I the the the these things will be you know, overwhelm me. Right. Or or produce or produce undesirable outcome. What whatever it is.

That you need to kinda take a step back. Maybe maybe take a few deep breaths and ask yourself, okay, is this is this really the best path forward here? Which sounds kind of reasonable across the board.

That’s that gets back to the very beginning. I’m a reasonable guy. See?

And we have come for circle. The circle of life is complete.


I was I was it’s just I’m I am fascinated by the the issue of culture because I just see behaviors that we need to desperately stop. Mhmm. And I think we I think we just touched on something, awareness.

Obviously key, but I think that there are some things in our world that are just so deeply ingrained that we almost take as normal as acceptable and and we don’t even question them when we should question them. I’ll give you an example.

Imagine, and I’m and I’m gonna use rhetoric. Here and a story because who doesn’t like stories?

You know, imagine if you worked at Frrito Lay and you were in the Doritos division, and you were in the business of making chips. Like, you made you made chips corn chips.

And if you were sitting at the, you know, the monthly board meeting or your executive meeting or your KPI or your MBO review, whatever it is, and you didn’t hit your chip output number for the month, or or your your your yelp reviews about your chips were down or whatever it is. Doesn’t matter. Nobody likes the chips.

And your answer to the board was, well, our corn sucks. It’s garbage.

Our corn is garbage. Like, imagine if you use that answer.

We use that every day in the data world. We we talk we talk about our inputs as garbage. We we literally use that word garbage.

Over and over and over and over and over to the point where it’s it’s part of the lexicon.

It’s a normal acceptable part of the lexicon.

And and that’s that’s an exact that’s an example where it’s like, well, wait a minute. Hold on.

You know, look at any other business, any other line of business, any other business that is that is involved in making your manufacturing or refining things.

Where they don’t have control over their raw inputs.

And they have to do they have to do their best with their raw inputs find one that considers those raw inputs garbage and constantly complaining about them and says that I’m basically powerless to stop them.

And it’s them. It’s not me. I got to me, that that that that that will that has to have some sort of input on our culture, but we don’t even talk about it. We just we we just accept that there is this idea of garbage and that it’s somebody else’s problem.

Yeah. Maybe maybe it’s rhetorical, and that’s okay. And and maybe letting me just I we we do. You don’t have to agree, by the way. No. I well, flots of people, right, garbage in garbage out.

Why? That’s part of the lexicon. Right? I think I think part of the okay. So I’m gonna take a step back and, part of the reason that some of these things happen is because the brain is lazy.

So so so The brain is about two percent to the body mass, but uses twenty percent of the energy.

And the prefrontal cortex, which is the rational thinking part, it is is very resource intensive.

And so the brain likes to create shortcuts. Right? Like, oh, based on my experience, we do this so that it preserves energy.

And so a lot of these things that we do are a function of I I call it laziness. It’s it’s a really resource, optimization?

Well, it’s not even optimization.

So it’s re it’s it’s keeping resources in reserve in case I need to fire flight.

Oh, okay. Okay. Because because survival overtakes everything else. So when the amygdala feels threatened, right, like there’s a survival issue, it actually pulls resources away from the prefrontal cortex which is why you can’t have a rational thought goes out the window. You can’t have a rational conversation with anybody. And then it dumps quartal cortisol and adrenaline, right, in preparation for the fighter flight.

So the so the brain is is constantly looking for shortcuts.

And so a lot of these things that I think that happen that that I think you’re alluding to are a function of that. Right? Where we’re just making we’re just taking mental shortcuts without taking the time to really think through what do what do all these things mean? You know, I I don’t know if it doesn’t interest in the contemporary address or garbage. Right? You know, but we have to I mean, I I would just say, you know, look, this is not garbage. This is a resource.

And how how are we best going to use this resource? Right? And if somebody’s not if somebody says we can’t tie this to some business outcome, I mean, I just say bullshit. I’m sorry.

Can I say that over your shoe? Yes. I’m sorry. I have. Yes. Okay. I I I I don’t know.

I mean, I just call, you know, like, That’s I don’t I don’t I don’t know. I don’t think we’re gonna get booted or anything like yeah. No. We’re we’re we’re we’re we’re fine.

It’s a it’s a it’s a technical term in the data world. We all know it. Yes. Yeah.

Like, that’s your job.


If you’re if you’re a data leader, If you’re CDO, CDAO, it’s C CDAO, whatever whatever the news Yeah. Yeah. I know. A childhood rhyme at a certain point about a farm. Your your your whole job is to figure out how you use data and analytics to improve the business outcomes.

Right? Like, if you can’t do that, like, you shouldn’t be there.

I I’m sorry. Like, That’s my perspective. Like, do your job, man.

Well, yeah, I think I I I agree.

I I am optimistic though that with some changes in mindset.

And and really, I I I just kinda distilled this down to this loosely defined notion of mindset.

If you see everything as garbage or if you see that garbage is overwhelming or uncontrollable or that that that is like it it’s like your kryptonite. Right?

You’re you’re gonna see it everywhere, even often where it doesn’t even necessarily exist. Right? If if that’s kind of the the mindset.

People pick up on that and people see it particularly on the other side of the table, particularly in peers because if I’m the COO, and I’m responsible for sales operations, for example. Right? Like, I’m responsible for moving sales quotes through, all the way from the time it’s a quote all the way through to the time revenues recognized. If that’s if that’s what I’m responsible for, My my reason for being, my existence is the optimization of that process.

Right. Hard stop. I have I’ve never met. I’ve never met a business leader. That wasn’t, you know, that wasn’t that’s operationally focused, that wasn’t focused on having the most efficient operations possible.

Yeah. And if you’re a data leader that is basically saying they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re making my life hard they they are they they don’t care about data quality.

Right? If that’s what you’re saying over and over and over again, and your peers are hearing this. Mhmm.

There’s a lot of things they’re probably thinking about you that can’t be repeated. But one of them most certainly is then you don’t have any clue what I do for a living.


Because what I do for a living is optimize business processes. It’s my job to make the supplier onboarding process as fast and as efficient as possible. And within certain guidelines, right, within within time guidelines, within budget time, within risk guidelines, within all those things. So I love this idea of culture.

I loved conversations about culture. I think we need absolutely positively need more of it. I think we need more of it through your lens, which is kind of looking more the way we think. Right?

And and I think we also needed kind of through some of the lens that I’m talking about, which are kind of like mindset and leadership and, you know, modeling behaviors and put all these things together because I think I think those are They’re always related. They all they’re all interrelated and they all play off each other. Right? So, I mean, I know that’s the big, you know, there’s a lot of conversation now, right now, around you know, growth mindset and, like, you know, what does that really mean?

Right? And all the all that really means is an iterative process of getting better. Right? The keyword to a growth mindset is yet.

The date is not clean yet. Yeah. Yep. But I’m gonna do this to move it there. The data is still not perfect yet, but now I’m gonna do this to get us closer, right, yet.

Okay, as opposed to, well, it’s all just garbage and I mean, I mean, also, I’m sure that I’m sure that there are some people So I I’m gonna take a little different view. I’m sure that there are some people data leaders that maybe like, have that, you know, it’s it’s all garbage, but, but I think most of them I don’t think most of them are that way.

Or or or agreed, but that is a pervasive view.

Like, it is part of the lexicon. It is it is part of the lexicon and it and and so I’m focusing on data leadership Right? And I think that there’s a bunch of people underneath the data leaders that probably have that view. Right? And that’s part of the data leaders responsibility.

Right? I I need to help them change the mindset of, like, we’re not here in business. We’re not getting paid to make data good. We’re getting paid to deliver good data going to improve the business outcomes.

By design. Yeah. Right. By design. Right. Like, Well, and and yeah, man, we we can keep going.

I I think this is this is an area where I think we we need a lot of help and we need more fresh ideas, more new ideas. I think the more we can understand how people’s minds work and how their brains work the better because we certainly need injections of new and fresh and different ideas because this is another thing that I think I think we are way too focused on kind of the past and I think there’s a lot of a version to change.

What what in in our space. Now we like new technologies, but when it comes to actually changing the way that we do things, I think that we’ve got a bit of an uphill battle. So it’s messages like yours. I think that are important, and I think that help in any way that a data leader can help, make sure that people aren’t triggered and have a fight or flight over change or over anything else that the data viewer is doing the better. That one was definitely my Yeah. That one was your yeah. Or or when when somebody is triggered, like, don’t try and have a rational conversation, give them at least a half an hour to comp now.

I love it. Dan, we we could keep going for hours and hours and hours. I know. Yeah.

Thanks so much for having me on. Well, thank you. I would invite everybody who is listening. Please follow Dan on LinkedIn.

He puts out fantastic content every now and that’s even a little entertaining.

Some of your lip syncs are epic on on LinkedIn, but I I I like the deep sync stuff. That’s kinda what I what I poured to tort tend to lean towards, and you put out a lot of that as well. So please, I would invite everybody to follow Dan Everett, the techno optimist on LinkedIn. He puts a great content If you’re not already a subscriber to this podcast and you’ve made it this far, in this episode, well, thank you. Please consider scribing and turning on your notifications for new episodes of the podcast.

I’m Malcolm Hocker head of data strategy with Profisee. Your host, thank you so much for tuning it, Dan. Thank you. My pleasure.

Alright, everybody. We’ll see you again in another two weeks in another installment of the CDO Matters podcast. Thanks, all. Bye.


How can today’s Chief Data Officers help their organizations become more data-driven? Join former Gartner analyst Malcolm Hawker as he interviews thought leaders on all things data management – ranging from data fabrics to blockchain and more — and learns why they matter to today’s CDOs. If you want to dig deep into the CDO Matters that are top-of-mind for today’s modern data leaders, this show is for you.

Malcolm Hawker
Malcolm Hawker is an experienced thought leader in data management and governance and has consulted on thousands of software implementations in his years as a Gartner analyst, architect at Dun & Bradstreet and more. Now as an evangelist for helping companies become truly data-driven, he’s here to help CDOs understand how data can be a competitive advantage.


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