This is the tenth in a series of discussions of quality guru W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points of Quality and their ramifications on data quality. Here I address Deming's quality point 6, "Institute training on the job."
Training is so important that it constitutes not just one, but two of Deming's 14 Points of Quality. Point 6 represents a universal truth: for someone to know how to do something well, they must be trained properly. Point 6 addresses the foundations of training for both management and staff. Point 13 reinforces the requirement for continuous training and augments it to include self-improvement for quality improvement through innovation.
People, not information, are an organization's most important asset. Information today becomes the differentiating resource. With capable, trained and empowered people armed with quality, just-in-time information, an enterprise will thrive. All other factors being equal, the organization with the highest quality information will emerge victorious in a competitive world. Yet, the "greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people."1 A manager expressed his anger about the fact that training was wasted money. He confided to a consultant that all he did was train people, and then they left to go elsewhere. The consultant observed, "Consider the alternative; suppose you don't train your people--and they stay."
Early in my career in information management, I worked for an organization that was developing their first application that was going to build its first shared database--new database management technology. The project had such an ambitious schedule that the application development manager scheduled the project team's training in the database technology after the scheduled implementation date! My objections went unheeded. And my written predictions came true--the project was implemented late. The message of quality point 6 is simple. For people to do a good job, they must be trained how to do that job properly. They must also have education as to why the quality required is expected.
Deming is very clear that training is required not just for employees, but also for management. Management requires training to understand the entire value chain of the enterprise and to know about all of the processes of the business. Japanese management training and career path development illustrate an important message for companies seeking to transform themselves from functional to business value-chain management. Japanese managers start their careers with long internships that vary from four to twelve years. During this time, the manager-trainee works in all parts of the enterprise, from the factory floor to procurement, accounting, distribution and sales. As a result of this on-the-job training, the Japanese managers have firsthand experience in production problems, as well as those of acquisition, logistics and sales. This prepares them for understanding how all parts of the business integrate.
Once employees have learned how to do a job improperly, it is very difficult to erase and change their behaviors. I began my career in information systems at Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the early seventies. Only two or three of the twenty- five classmates in my programmer-training class had degrees in computer science. Sears' philosophy was to hire the right people they felt had the personality and aptitude and then train them. It was much easier to train someone with a degree in philosophy, music, theology or history (some of the backgrounds in our class) in their approach to application development than to retrain someone experienced and trained in another approach.
Ramifications for Data Quality
How can data producers provide quality data if they are not trained properly? How can knowledge workers use information correctly if they do not know its meaning?
How can data analysts and systems analysts develop quality data models and data definitions if they are not properly trained? How can database designers and application developers deliver reusable applications and databases if they do not know how?
Every job in the enterprise requires training about information and information management principles. Figure 1 lists data quality training requirements by broad job or role classification. This list does not include job-specific or tool-specific training. It includes information management and data quality training requirements.
1 Deming, Out of the Crisis
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