What Information Managers Can Learn from Athletes

What Information Managers Can Learn from Athletes

4 minute read
Kimberly Samuelson avatar

Have you ever read the biography of a champion athlete? I love reading biographies, but these are my favorite. They usually go a little like this: the future champ starts off as the underdog, but through a mix of talent, strategy, grit and determination becomes the victor. Books about using the principles of sports in corporate strategy are also good reads, although I was probably the last person in America to read “Moneyball.”

All this reading makes me think about applying championship strategies to information management. As in, why don’t we? We should.

Champion athletes learn early on that every competitive experience will expose them to a different set of challenges. Information managers -- does this sound familiar? 

On the one hand, we have changing environments and client demands requiring cloud and mobile accessibility. On the other, with more points of accessibility, it is more important than ever to retain proper governance controls. And at the end of the day the only constant is change.

So what can we learn from athletes about managing a situation in flux? Athletes learn how to assess a situation, figure out how it is different from the norm and then adapt. In one word -- they are agile. Let's explore how to incorporate four “athletic champion” approaches into your information enterprise -- I promise -- you won't have to run laps.

1. Pursue Excellence, Not Perfection

There's no such thing as perfection in information management. That's impossible. And this is before layering on things like client requests, security, mobility, etc. Strive for an “equilibrium of excellence” -- have a documented mission, strategy and standard operating procedure (SOP). Control what you can so you can stack the deck in your favor.

When requests like mobility or cloud hosting come up, refer back to your document, ask yourself, “how does mobility change X,Y and Z (your environment)?” and cautiously apply accordingly. And you know what -- you might make a mistake. Pursuers of excellence correct mistakes and learn from them. Perfectionists are thwarted by failure.

Learning Opportunities

2. Persist, Even When Rewards and Benefits Are Not Immediately Forthcoming

Information management can be thankless and a bit of a slog. It’s one of those things that folks only notice when something goes wrong -- like an information breach -- and then the crazy breaks loose. Know that keeping your organization in regulatory compliance during a migration to the cloud may not always have coworkers sending you roses, but ultimately the pay-off -- risk mitigation -- is worth the effort. Remember, information management is a marathon, not a sprint.

3. Be Agile, Adjust the Plan

If I had to pick one of these four tactics to put on a poster -- this would be the one. Environments change, people change, technologies change -- guess what -- the plan can change too! When external or internal disrupters cause you to make changes to your IM strategy, update your plan. Plans are often treated as “set-in-stone” as opposed to “working document.”

Organizations can learn a lot from the financial services sector, as they need to update their SOPs as part of their compliance efforts. To manage change, adopt agile project management methodology to manage the IM within your organization. While “agile” was originally built for software development, it is flexible enough to manage many different project types.

4. Realize: You're Part of a Larger System that Includes Families, Teammates and Coaches

IM should not, and cannot exist in a vacuum. It includes people, processes, technology -- even paper. I like to picture information management as the pipes connecting all of these elements. Mature organizations have baked IM into the core strategy of the organization. Therefore information management has become an integral part of corporate systems.​

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Around the rings1992 

About the author

Kimberly Samuelson

Kimberly Samuelson is a freelance product marketing strategist in the ECM marketplace. She specializes in developing and delivering compelling content about ECM as it relates to the greater technology marketplace.