I write this column as I am flying to Budapest, Hungary, to lead an Information Quality seminar and from there to the London IQ Conference 2000. Having just completed the IQ Conference Anaheim, I wish to share a few of the many things I personally learned from the rejuvenating Anaheim experience.

How you respond to customers when they have complaints is as important – and sometimes more so – than preventing defects. One of the improvements we implemented for this year's conference was original laser-printed documentation in bound book volumes. While this provided presentation quality, there were defects in some of the bindings – some pages fell out because they were not bound properly. The students called it to our attention Wednesday morning. This was unacceptable to us as well as the students. We identified the cause of the book binding defects, figured out a stopgap procedure and announced that we would replace defective books, allowing the attendees to keep the books in which they had notes.

The lesson I learned came when Jennifer, our administrative assistant, went out to dinner with a group of the attendees. Somewhere in the conversation, the defective books came up. Jennifer said she was surprised that there were not more complaints about the books since several were defective. The group replied that the way we handled the problem – acknowledging it, apologizing and providing a corrective measure – ameliorated the problem. The conference evaluations confirmed that – there were seven compliments and thanks for the bound volumes, but only one mention of the defective bindings.

The Baldrige Quality Award is increasing the importance of the information and analysis category. The significance behind this is the increasing importance of information in organizational performance excellence. The information and analysis is more important because it is foundational for the other six categories, according to Harry Hertz, director of the National Quality Award Program (Baldrige Award) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Another key point Harry made was the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) legacy of continuous improvement. Everybody improving things without a direction creates problems. We must align improvements with the strategic vision and direction of the enterprise and do it with priority. Keeping current with the business needs means "doing the right business things."

Even government organizations can take on a customer satisfaction mind-set and use customer satisfaction measures as a business driver. George Chynoweth, U.S. Army in Stuttgart, Germany, demonstrated an online interactive customer evaluation system that allows internal customers to provide customer satisfaction feedback for the services they receive. This is an integral part of one army unit's leadership commitment to customer service as a system-wide value and to managing the unit "by fact." The customer satisfaction evaluations are used as part of management's performance measures and drive improvements in the unit services. (Look for more about this in a future column.)

If you receive defective data, do not accept it – send it back to the originator to fix or sequester it. Don Carlson of Motorola described how Motorola is applying Six Sigma and other quality methods to information quality. An organization will never get to PDCA – the technique for finding and fixing the root causes of defective data – until we send the defective data back to the originator for them to fix. But do not stop there. Measure whether the originator fixed it and hold people accountable.

If the business insists on warehousing defective data in the data warehouse without correcting it, do it – but sequester the data so that it cannot be accessed until someone analyzes and corrects it. In this way, the defective data cannot be used to cause process failure or poor decisions.

To bring about culture change, remember the formula: C = D x V x F > R. Lori Silverman, owner of Partners for Progress and co-author of Critical SHIFT: The Future of Quality in Organizational Performance, taught me a number of techniques for culture change management. One key element is a complete formula for change management. Change (C) occurs, Lori says, when the product of dissatisfaction (D) with the present situation, a vision (V) of what is possible and the understanding of the first steps (F) toward reaching the vision are greater than the resistance to change (R).

The importance of this formula is that enterprise-wide change can be instituted in a manageable, achievable way. You must help people feel that the state of business is unacceptable, i.e., raise the pain threshold until it is impossible for management to say, "The old is OK." But you must also provide a vision for an alternative to the current situation. Finally, the lesson I learned is that you only have to provide a clear set of first steps to move the organization toward the vision. In fact, in enterprise-wide change, it is impossible to have the entire road map marked out. A key lesson is to drive out fear by communicating which things will stay the same while other things are in flux.

Information Quality is Not for Everyone

I have come to the conclusion that information quality is not for everyone. It is not for those who believe in "quick and dirty" process messes that someone else must clean up. Rather, IQ is for those who believe in "quick and clean." If you do things right the first time, you can add value while others are doing things over, around or instead. This costs money in process failure and information scrap and rework, and it squanders business opportunities caused by inaccurate and missing information. Information quality is for people who care and who dare:

  • Care about their information customers and the products they produce for them.
  • Care for their team.
  • Care for their fellow IQ professionals.
  • Care for their stockholders and stakeholders, who are robbed of profits and opportunities due to the costs of nonquality information.
  • Dare to challenge the status quo.
  • Dare to do what is right rather than what is expedient.
  • Dare to be the best they can be and do the best they can do for the sake of all.

If you care, and if you dare, please join the IQ revolution. Make a difference for your customers. Make a difference for your stakeholders. Make a difference in your own professional experience. You have a growing community of caring partners and supporters.
If you missed the IQ Conference this year, view attendees unabridged comments at www.information-quality.com to see what you missed. Don't miss the next IQ conference in Baltimore, Maryland, September 30 to October 4, 2001. Call for presentations can be found at www.infoimpact.com.

What do you think? Let me know at Larry.English@infoimpact.com or on the IQ Forum under IQ Resources at www.information-quality.com.

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