Politics of terminology

One of the things that we get called in to help with is the set of governance policies and processes that are necessary to make taxonomy projects a success.

There are number of things that need to happen for organizations to be effective in this area:

1. Sponsorship: Someone with power and authority needs to understand the value of taxonomy and nomenclature governance

This person can help settle turf disputes and conflicting organizational requirements. The key is that they are truly engaged and really get it, rather than delegating authority.

2. Ownership: An operational champion needs to own the project. This is the person to whom ultimate accountability falls. They are the one that has to drive communication and get people to participate

3. Line of business buy in: Terms are applied in specific business contexts. If those close to the front lines are not part of the process, then the taxonomy will lose relevance and therefore not be fully adopted.

4. Foundational knowledge: People involved in the process need to understand where they are going and the process for getting there. This kind of foundational knowledge needs to be facilitated throughout the project so that after the project is complete, the organization will have traversed the maturity curve.

5. Specific branch and node ownership: Individuals who understand the specific domain of knowledge need to be responsible for parts of the taxonomy so that the process is manageable.

6. Accountability and measurement: Tasks of maintenance or participation in review meetings or term feedback need to be part of people’s job descriptions and they need to be evaluated on these tasks in performance reviews. If this is not part of job descriptions, then it will not be done.

In order for the organization to really embrace term management, people need to see how it benefits their work. So integration with existing projects ‘in flight’ is important and has to be done with a consideration for current workloads. By showing stakeholders how particpation in your project will help them and not hinder them, you will be able to gain support. But if you make it seem too difficult and onerous, people will naturally say “why bother?”. The balance lies in being realistic about the effort without losing support. This can only be done in the context of explaining multiple benefits to projects and processes.

Diverse groups need to be aligned, which is always a challenge. Getting people to understand the challenges and processes for moving forward is the place you need to start.

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