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Cooks, Chefs and Data Governance


In their book "Practical Wisdom," Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe quoted retired Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Wong, who is a Research Professor of Military Strategy in the Strategic Studies Institute at the United States Army War College, focusing on the human and organizational dimensions of the military.

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Comments (2)
I like this point, I agree a minimal number of essential parameters considered within the business context is better than a burdensome bureaucracy that demands compliance. I think separating data governance from information or analytics governance is important because the requirement for strict adherence is different. Data governance (capture and storing data) is like the standards on raw materials in cooking. Adherence to those should be strict. Analytics governance is like the governance on the chef, it is about mixing and using the raw material, and has a tougher balance to optimize, eg for analytics, to minimize inconsistent or incorrect results but still enable creative problem solving. I think our traffic system is also a great example of governance that enables by providing restrictive parameters. Our cars are all more useful with the rules of the road that without them. Driver's license requirements, policing, roads, traffic signals etc are all restrictive but increase the value of our cars, and we still have room for creativity and problem solving getting from point A to B. Disciplines like cooking, or driving, or engineering, or medicine, all provide lessons in good governance. But it seems we are still struggling for the formula in Information Management. Does anyone else agree that is true? And why?
Posted by Ed U | Tuesday, September 11 2012 at 1:45PM ET
Thanks for your comment, Ed.

I like your distinction between Cook (i.e., Data) Governance and Chef (i.e., Information/Analytics) Governance, with stricter governance for the cooks, but more flexible governance for the chefs.

I also like your governance example based on driving, traffic signals, rules of the road, etc.

I agree with your point that, for lack, on my part, of better phrases, "the real world" provides many lessons in good governance, which we have not found a way to easily apply to "the virtual worlds" of data and information.

In fact, data and information are more similar to the theoretical "multiverse" since although the real world is constrained by an immutable set of physical laws and constants, the virtual worlds of data and information are not constrained by the same parameters.

One simplistic example is the fact that I can only physically exist in one place at one time, whereas the data and information that describes me simultaneously exists in countless databases all around the world. Another simplistic example is that what would happen to me if I drove my car at 100 miles/hour into a stone wall can only produce one outcome (my certain death), whereas what could happen with the data and information describing me whizzing around the Internet at 100 MB/second into the analytical applications of countless organizations can produce a wide variety of outcomes, the possibilities of which are not easily predictable -- especially not with the certainty that the laws of physics can predict the outcome of my car slamming into that stone wall.

Although the real world provides us with many good lessons and useful metaphors, I have always believed (and many people disagree with my perspective on this) that data and information can NOT be managed or governed in the same way that physical objects can -- which is why, for example, I have never liked the attempted brute force application of Manufacturing Quality principles to Data and Information Quality.

Best Regards,


Posted by Jim H | Wednesday, September 19 2012 at 2:19PM ET
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