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Power, Politics, and Partnership in Information Quality Initiatives
July 2009
Maureen Clarry

The information and data quality world is dominated by the word “systems.” We have source systems, operational systems, information quality systems, database systems, application systems, data warehouse systems, reporting systems, analytic systems, and business intelligence systems. However, the “system” that tends to be most misunderstood and challenging for most people is the organizational “system” that we live in.

In her book “Leadership and the New Science”, Margaret Wheatley writes: “Each of us lives and works in organizations designed from Newtonian images of the universe. Our assumptions come to us from seventeenth century physics, from Newtonian mechanics. But the science has changed. If we are to continue to draw from the sciences to create and manage organizations, then we need to at least ground our work in the science of our times. We need to stop seeking the universe of the seventeenth century and begin to explore what became known to us in the twentieth century.”

As Margaret Wheatley points out, we tend to see our organizations through the mental model of a machine. In fact, we use a bill of materials structure or hierarchy to typically depict the relationships between the parts…the standard org chart. We need new ways to understand and manage the organizations we are in – the new discipline that Peter Senge from M.I.T. refers to in The Fifth Discipline.

Senge defines five core lifelong programs for study and practice and one of them is systems thinking. His definition of systems thinking is: “a way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems. This discipline helps us see how to change systems more effectively, and to act more in tune with the larger processes of the natural and economic world.”