Power & Politics


On the first day at the Information and Data Quality Conference, I attended the session, “Using Data Profiling for Proactive Data Quality Improvement“. That session was for the first half of the day, so for the second half I attended the Len Silverston session titled “Power and Politics in Data Quality Improvement Efforts“. This was a great session that had very little to do with data theory and data management, and a lot to do with interoffice dynamics. The session opened up with the question, “What is the biggest problem in data quality today?” Many good answers were tossed out by the attendees, but I think the answer that Len submitted trumped them all… read on for the answer.


The biggest problem in Data Quality today: Data-Myning. Notice that this isn’t the normal data mining that you are probably used to. The spelling of “My-ning” is used to indicate that people tend to think in terms of “my data”, and there are many problems that are associated with this type of thinking. “My data is best”, “I’ll give you access to some of my data”, “my data doesn’t need data quality”, and “my data doesn’t need metadata” are just some of the problems that Data My-ning causes. Len’s stated purpose of the session was to, “Move towards integration and empowerment”, and he provided many analysis tools to help do this with your projects.

The first tool had us look intrinsically at why we do things. On the top of a piece of paper we wrote down the name of a project or program we are currently working on. On the left side of the paper we wrote down how a “program or project will help me” and listed all of the reasons. On the right side we wrote “how the project is an obstacle to me” and listed our honest reasons. This tool is the first step in creating another of Len’s resources called the Power Diagram. Filling it out about yourself clearly defines your motives, and the rest of the diagram has you doing the same thing but for everyone else involved in the project (fill out what you think their motives are as well as their obstacles). This bring back into focus the “me and my” thoughts that were first discussed because it quickly becomes apparent that everyone has their own personal motivations for doing (or resisting) a project.

The next item discussed was the vision for your program. Len thinks that most people create their project vision in such a way that it encompasses the business mission statement. In fact, the opposite should actually be done, and Len displayed a diagram where the business vision encompasses the project vision. He states that, “When we look at the larger picture, in reality, our job in data quality is to support the overall business – just like all the other aspects of the enterprise.”


The last part of the session had us focusing on goals and conflict resolution. In brief, we should always keep the overall goals insight. As for conflict resolution, the following is given for how to overcome it:

1. Don’t react. Stay objective.
2. Disarm. Step to their side.
3. Change the game. Don’t reject… Reframe (holistic, common goal)
4. Make it easy to say yes
5. Bring them to their senses, not their knees (using power, not force)

All in all, I’d highly recommend this session. The principle taught can be used across a wide variety of projects, programs, and organizations.

Len Silverston is a consultant and the President of Universal Data Models.

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