I am often asked about the critical success factors for enterprise initiatives, such as data qualitymaster data management, and data governance.

Although there is no one thing that can guarantee success, if forced to choose one critical success factor to rule them all, I would choose collaboration.

But, of course, when I say this everyone rolls their eyes at me (yes, I can see you doing it now through the computer) since it sounds like I’m avoiding the complex concepts underlying enterprise initiatives by choosing collaboration.

The importance of collaboration is a very simple concept but, as Amy Ray and Emily Saliers taught me, “the hardest to learn was the least complicated.”

The Pronoun Test

Although all organizations must define the success of enterprise initiatives in business terms (e.g., mitigated risks, reduced costs, or increased revenue), collaborative organizations understand that the most important factor for enduring business success is the willingness of people all across the enterprise to mutually pledge to each other their communicationcooperation, and trust.

These organizations pass what Robert Reich calls the Pronoun Test. When their employees make references to the company, it’s done with the pronoun We and not They. The latter suggests at least some amount of disengagement, and perhaps even alienation, whereas the former suggests the opposite — employees feel like part of something significant and meaningful.

An even more basic form of the Pronoun Test is whether or not people can look beyond their too often self-centered motivations and selflessly include themselves in a collaborative effort. “It’s amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit” is an old quote for which, with an appropriate irony, it is rather difficult to identify the original source.

Collaboration requires a simple, but powerful, paradigm shift that I call Turning the M Upside Down — turning "Me" into "We".

This post originally appeared at OCDQ Blog.