Dear Laura: Our Data Governance Leader Quit

By on

Click to learn more about author Laura Madsen.

Welcome to the Dear Laura blog series! As I’ve been working to challenge the status quo on Data Governance – I get a lot of questions about how it will “really” work. I’ll be sharing these questions and answers via this DATAVERSITY® series. Last year I wrote the book “Disrupting Data Governance” because I firmly believe that poor Data Governance programs are getting in the way of data programs being as successful as possible.


Learn how to develop a successful Data Governance framework and operating model with our online training program.

Read the most recent blog posts in this series here and here.

“Dear Laura,

Recently, our Data Governance leader quit. Apparently, she decided that living in Costa Rica and teaching yoga was more fun and interesting than leading a Data Governance effort, but I digress. Now I have an empty hole where my Data Governance leader used to be and within a few weeks, the whole thing has fallen apart. Nobody seems to know exactly what’s happening, what we should be doing, and most disturbingly, what the value of the program was in the first place. I lead a large effort and I don’t have time to fill the gap myself for governance efforts. What do I do now?

Stranded in San Antonio”

Hi, Stranded,

One of the challenges we have with a lot of Data Governance programs is that when our linchpin of a leader leaves, the whole thing falls apart. This is why I talk so much about the need to build a responsive and resilient Data Governance effort. Responsive means that it moves at the speed of business. Resilient means that it can come back from issues like losing a linchpin.

So, you’ve learned your lesson. Now what do you do? First, hire the replacement role very differently. Reframe this leadership role for Data Governance like a product owner – which is an agile concept. An experienced product owner defines the vision, prioritizes, removes obstacles for the team, and acts as a liaison to the organization. I don’t want you to necessarily hire somebody that’s been with your organization for a long time and knows every possible scenario that’s wrong with your data. (That’s not to say that you shouldn’t look for somebody that’s in your organization – you just want to make sure you hire them for the right skillset).

Next, look for attributes such as being an excellent communicator, much like an ambassador. An ambassador’s job is to both protect and promote. This aligns very well with how we think about Data Governance because while protection is a primary function for us to be successful, promotion is critical for our business stakeholders to continue to support Data Governance. Your new leader should have the experience to prioritize the work, focus on the value, and remove obstacles, with the skills of an ambassador. The best part about this is that they don’t have all of the knowledge stuck in their head and they tend to be easier to find. This “Data Governance product owner” concept means that if that person leaves, you just need to find somebody else that knows how to prioritize, remove obstacles, and focus on the value. Look for an ambassador, not a commander, and you’ll be just fine.

By the way, does your ex-Data Governance leader do yoga retreats?



Do you have a question about Data Governance you’d like me to answer? Email me at Laura at viagurus dot com.

Leave a Reply

We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept