Do companies need a Chief Information Governance Officer (CIGO)? (2) – Organizational change is needed!

“Perhaps the greatest organizational challenge on the road to unified information governance is that no one department alone can achieve the intended goals and benefits.” (Harry Pugh, Destroying Data: Why It’s So Difficult, in Information Systems & Management, No. 4, 2012).


The well-known US expert and book author of an authoritative monograph (2014) on “Information Governance” (IG), Robert Smallwood, has meanwhile come to the conclusion that the widely used IG Reference Model (IGRM) is missing a crucial component, namely change management as a condition of successful governance[1].

Many IG initiatives and programs are now considered failures because a purely socio-technical implementation design completely underestimated cultural and political factors. I can confirm this finding from my own practice[2]. The above quote suggests that the only way to successful governance is through a culture of togetherness (cooperation), i.e. permanent communication, cooperation and collaboration[3].

The creation of such an (IG-affine) culture requires organizational change, which is usually only achieved through a step-by-step approach: big throws are discouraged.

In Bruno Wildhaber’s first article on the CIGO (Chief Information Governance Officer), we argued that there is a fundamental ambivalence between desirable strategic IG leadership by top management (BoD or Executive Board) and correspondingly orchestrated implementation by tactical and operational functional levels and bodies. A CIGO alone can never do this. A hierarchical following won’t work either. It takes a coordinated pincer movement from the bottom and top to get governance to put meat in the middle like in the hamburger model at the bottom.


The Hamburger model illustrates that cohesion can only emerge when top-down support pulls from the top and a base of legitimacy supports and holds the foundation at the bottom. Governance therefore has to do with legitimacy, as is always the case when it comes to politics. The Hamburg model also symbolically supports the MATRIO Method® propagated by KRM for implementing information governance initiatives. Additionally, it also fits nicely into our refrigerator model[4] for representing information governance. Food, like data, is perishable, meaning organizations do not have an arbitrary amount of time to get their information in order.

The crucial question now is how a culture can be created in which all stakeholders develop a behavior that motivates everyone involved to pull together and at the same time serves the cause, namely to manage the production factor information without regard to hierarchies in such a way that it increases the value of the company and minimizes the associated risks.

First of all, it should be sobering to learn that 70-80% of all company cultures are (unfortunately) still very hierarchical. In Germany, this is probably even more the case than in the more Anglo-Saxon Swiss corporate cultures. The EGO system largely dominates even far ahead of the understanding of an operation as an ECO system.

A survey conducted by the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit”[5] revealed that the outdated management style in German companies is endangering the business location. Many managers feel themselves to be prisoners in an unloved system. As an alternative, a future model is favored in which managers see themselves as facilitators and coaches, “in self-organizing, cross-functional networks that can be used to tap into a collective intelligence to produce innovation.” However, this is probably also wishful thinking, because this attitude is contrasted with the lived experience that fewer and fewer managers are prepared to make decisions. And they don’t even have to be unpopular, but whoever decides is exposing himself and could jeopardize his career. The two sides of the coin: a culture in which laissez-faire prevails and no one feels responsible vs. a classic command & control management style. Obviously, the truth lies in the middle, or must be adapted to the circumstances. In many areas (including information management), command & control is the only way to achieve meaningful results and work economically. For example, I cannot leave the definition of metadata to the employees themselves (cf. Red Flags)[6].

The aspirations of the above future model are high and place great demands on the social competence of all actors beyond romanticized teamwork or pure self-organization. The magic word here is flexibilization and agility and appears under the terms “agile leadership[7] or “lateral leadership” and calls for fundamental organizational change. This should only be pointed out at this point. There are now a variety of approaches, but they are all still very experimental in nature, e.g., the transfer of Scrum methods to management. Such projects are important as trailblazers and icebreakers, but there are few companies that can handle them and it is important to stay realistic.

Realistic here means that power factors and power games cannot simply be ignored, but that it is a matter of finding a balance in the area of tension between power, trust and understanding. The last two factors act as acorrective.


This approach, developed by Kühl[8], is based on operational sociology and can easily be applied to the field of information governance. Lateral leadership means, first of all, simply the fact that it becomes possible to be seen as a boss without being a boss.[9]It means that the formal structure of an organization recedes into the background in favor of a common goal in a matter that inspires.

What is essential here is the inner attitude beyond typifying leadership styles or personality types (e.g. Myers-Briggs) which are outdated.

How this can be done in an information governance environment driven by technological disruption will be discussed in the next installment.

cf. also the approach of our colleagues from doculabs:


[1] There was a post about this on LinkedIn:

[2] See my case study essay, Information Governance – Beyond the Buzz, in Records Management Journal 2013, Vol. 23 Iss: 3, pp.228 – 240

[3] See Gartner Outlines Six Best Practices for Moving to a Culture of Extreme Collaboration (2012).

[4] Video:

[5] Survey: Managers consider German leadership culture outdated, Die Zeit 30.9.2014:

[6] Wildhaber (2015): Information Governance, 2.5.4

[7] Cf. Scherber, S., Lang M. (2015): Agile Leadership. From agile project to agile company, Düsseldorf

[8] Kühl Stefan (2015): Führen ohne Hierarchie: Macht, Vertrauen und Verständigung im Konzept des lateralen Führens, in: Geramanis O., Hermann K. (eds.). Leading in uncertain times. Impulse, Konzepte und Praxisbeispiele, Berlin (Springer); cf. also: Kühl / Schnelle: Führen ohne Hierarchie Macht, Vertrauen und Verständigung im Prozess des Lateralen Führens, in: OrganisationsEntwicklung Nr.2, 2009.

[9] Eggenberger S. (2014): Being seen as a boss – Without being a boss, in: Alpha (Tages-Anzeiger), 20.9.2014.


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