Continue in 2 seconds

The Day Life Stood Still: A Time of Remembrance, Reflection and Resolve

  • February 01 2002, 1:00am EST
More in

September 11, 2001. The day the world was changed forever. The day America lost its innocence. The day that rearranged our priorities. That day causes us to rethink who we are, what our purpose is and how we should live and work. We must not hoard information for our own selfish benefit, we must share information appropriately for the good of all, and now in ways required for the security of all. The lessons that apply to national security have ramification for enterprises, large and small.

A Time of Remembrance

I am writing this on December 11. I paused for a few moments at 8:46 am EST before beginning my journey from Brentwood, Tennessee, to Anchorage, Alaska, to work with one of my long-term clients, the Bureau of Land Management. At that precise moment three months earlier, the passengers of ill-fated AA Flight 11 ended their journey, not as they planned, but in the beginning of what was to become a wrenching nightmare of horror. My thoughts and prayers went out to those more than three thousand persons whose lives were snuffed out in that moment or in the minutes to follow. My thoughts and prayers were and continue to be with the families and loved ones for the grief they will bear for the rest of their lives. My prayers and thoughts also go out to the countless thousands of others who, as a result of this tragedy, became jobless, had their livelihoods reduced or lost their sense of security. Godspeed to all wrestling with their own pilgrimages to get back to some sense of normalcy in their lives.

My prayers and thoughts go out to those who continue to give selflessly in the recovery work, for giving in so many ways to help those who are suffering. My prayers and thoughts go out to those in the military and other forms of service who put their lives at risk to serve their country, seeking to provide security for their fellow citizens. Special prayers go out for the families who will have lost loved ones who so served. My prayers and thoughts also go out to the leaders of the great United States and to those leaders around the world who are working together to make informed decisions and just actions to preserve and advance civilization. May they have the information, the knowledge and the wisdom to do the "right things" in an imperfect and complex world.

A Time of Reflection

As I reflect on the tragedy and trauma others have and continue to experience, I ask, "What does this mean for me and for those of us who are still here?" One lesson revealed is that life goes on. Not one of us can undo the tragic events of that fateful day. However, we have the power to transform how we think, what we do and how we do it.

September 11 solidified my stewardship to help those within my sphere of influence to make the world a better place. My raison de être is to help people eliminate the waste of scrap and rework caused by poor quality information so that they are freed to do value work. Total information quality management (TIQM) is not about perpetual data cleansing ­ it is about cleansing once, if required, and improving the processes to prevent defective data that requires information scrap and rework.1 TIQM is about process improvement to eliminate the process failure and the resulting information scrap and rework that drains the most valuable resource of the enterprise ­ its people.

When we do not have to do things over again because of nonquality information, we are able to concentrate on actions that make a positive difference. This is true in business and in personal life. In business, nonquality information causes process failure such as duplicate claims payments, missed claims payments, incorrect shipments (or correct shipments, but to the wrong address), wrong decisions or no decisions when they could have been made. In personal life, we suffer information scrap and rework in the form of incorrect directions, incorrect advertisements, etc.

A Time of Resolve

The most significant ramification of nonquality information is failure to be able to exploit the most important opportunities that face our enterprises. The tragedy of the September 11 event reinforces the importance of:

  • Managed, quality information in solving ­ and preventing ­ catastrophic business failure. Can we prevent every catastrophe? No. However, the lesson learned is that there is significant information "known" within numerous organizations, databases and citizens' heads that if collected, managed and coordinated can minimize the possibility of recurrence of such terrorist attacks.
  • The effective enterprise is managed horizontally, with information shared effectively across the different parts of the enterprise, including the extended enterprise of business partners or sister agencies. Information Quality Point 9 (from Deming's Point 9 of Quality) states, "Break down barriers between staff areas." It was heartwarming to see people from all walks of life set aside their political, ideological and religious differences to join in the rescue and recovery processes. Should not people from different parts of our enterprises overcome their departmental differences and join together for the good of their end customers?
  • There are certain types of process failures where the goal must be prevention. Information scrap and rework is meaningless when loss of life or business failure can result.
  • We must conduct root-cause analysis to solve the real problems of today. If we do not understand the root causes, we will only attack the symptoms, "fixing" the problem time and again, continually throwing good money after bad.
  • TIQM is not just a methodology for addressing quality of data in databases or data warehouses. Rather, TIQM is about people caring for people: TIQM is about information producers caring about their information customers ­ the downstream knowledge workers.

    TIQM is about information-systems personnel treating their fellow business personnel with respect as business partners and as knowledge-workers, not as unempowered "users." In the age of business intelligence, knowledge management and customer relationship management, it is incongruous to refer to those who perform the real work of the enterprise as "users."2 Every discipline of quality has the concept of "customer" as the subject of quality products or services. It is time to update the term "user" if we are to overcome the barriers to effective partnerships.

    TIQM is about business personnel treating the information-systems personnel as partners, being patient with them, helping them understand the business problems that must be solved and working with them when needed to assure the systems personnel understand the business personnel's true needs.

    TIQM is about business management caring for their people and providing the training and resources they need to perform value work. It is about empowering them to conduct process improvement initiatives to eliminate the information scrap and rework that increases costs while decreasing profits and robbing shareholders of earnings.

    TIQM is about everyone in the enterprise working to accomplish the goals of the enterprise. TIQM is about the enterprise enabling their downstream information customers to be successful ­ and not just seeking to meet work-group goals if and when it sub-optimizes enterprise performance.

Resolve to Improve

Let us reflect on the meaning of September 11 in the big picture and what it means to us where we are. Let each of us resolve to:

  • Make our own "worlds" (our own spheres of influence) and the world at large a better place to live and work.
  • Treat others as we want to be treated.
  • Be good stewards of the information and other resources in our care for the good of our customers.
  • Share our knowledge with others and help them be more successful.
  • Learn from others to enrich our own lives. None of us knows everything, even about our own discipline(s).
  • Seek to eliminate waste where you find it. Assemble a team to conduct root-cause analysis and process improvement (PDCA, or Plan-Do-Check-Act) to be more effective in whatever we do.

I challenge myself and I challenge you to conduct yourself in a way that when our lives are over, others can say, "They made this world a better place to live."
What do you think? Let me know at


1. TIQM, formerly called TQdM (Total Quality data Management), was renamed because the methodology applies to all aspects of Information Quality Management.

2. See L. P. English, "What's in a Name: More Than You Might Think," DM Review, September 2000.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access