AUSPC 2011 Keynote: Paul Culmsee on ‘SharePoint Governance Home Truths’

Paul Culmsee delivered the keynote on the second and final day of the Australian SharePoint Conference this morning, addressing the topic of "SharePoint Governance Home Truths."  Paul began by acknowledging that there are two aspects to SharePoint governance, and stating that the "softer aspects" are every bit as important as the technology.  Paul shared that his talk was inspired by the book Management f-LAWS: How Organizations Really Work by Russell Ackoff and Herbert Addison.  The essence of the definition of f-LAWS is "truths about organizations that we might wish to deny and ignore."  Paul said, "I keep coming up with new SharePoint f-LAWS, but we're only going to go through five today… these are the home truths."

  1. "The more comprehensive the definition of governance, the less everyone will understand it."  In other words, forget trying to over-define governance, and think of governance as "facilitating the journey" from a present, unhappy state to some aspirational future state.  Identify what that future state looks like (i.e., what is your end goal?), and then determine how it will be accomplished, and who will be required to assist in the effort.  Paul said that "The takeaway is that governance is a means to an end … the more you try and define it, [the more] you're confusing the means with the end."  Paul also stressed the importance of arriving at a shared vision of the desired end state.
  2. Began with "There is no point in asking users what they want," and I wasn't able to capture the rest, but the gist was that this is largely due to the important difference between knowing versus learning. Key takeaways include the need to "expect fluid requirements, expect scope changes, involve stakeholders, expect resistance and pullback, plan for prototyping, be adaptable, not penalize people for their learning."  Of the need to not penalize people while they're learning, Paul said, "That's the big one."

  3. The probability of project success is inversely proportional to the time taken to come up with a measurable KPI.  The probability of a successful project is inversely proportional to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Many thanks to Paul Culmsee for taking the time to personally correct my failure to correctly capture his third f-LAW.
  4. "Most stated governance objective are platitudes – they say nothing but hide behind words." Paul shared as a good platitude indicator, "If you can't reasonably disagree with an objective or measure it, then it is a platitude," and also shared Russell Ackoff's statement that "Most corporate mission statements are worthless" before providing a number of examples of worthless, platitudinous mission statements, as well as a worthy one: Apple's.
  5. "Confidence is the feeling you have until you understand the problem," which Paul identified as being a Woody Allen quote.  Explaining how this relates to SharePoint, Paul referred to divergence and convergence in problem-solving, and said that once you have more than one person involved, you're more than likely going to go through a divergence phase before entering the convergence phase that will (ideally) lead to a successful resolution.

Paul wrapped up with a couple of thoughts for consideration.  The first was that "Ultimately, people remember legacy, not scope."  To illustrate this point, he showed a photo of the Sydney Opera House, saying that the project came in ten years late and over budget, but as for the legacy?  "It's priceless."  Paul's belief is that when entering into a SharePoint project, "If you don't ask what legacy is this going to leave, you're doomed to repeat yourself."

The second thought that Paul shared in conclusion was his previously stated "One best practice to rule them all: Ensure a shared understanding of the problem among all participants," stating as the key takeaway that "The only way to converge to a solution is [through a] shared commitment among participants."


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