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Why You Don't Need Management Commitment, Part 3

  • July 01 2001, 1:00am EDT

This column, the last of the series, provides suggestions for obtaining management's active involvement to support your information management and quality initiative.

Find the most senior business manager in your organization that feels the pain of poor quality information. Develop political support by listening to him or her. Find the manager's problems. Conduct a plan-do-check-act (PDCA) to discover the root cause of management's pain and improve processes to make them successful.1 They now will be your voice upward.

Measure the costs of nonquality information to quantify the pain. Most management is either too removed to feel the pain or accepts the costs of information scrap and rework as normal costs of doing business. You must help them understand exactly how much nonquality information costs. "Speak with data," Kouru Ishikawa says.2 If we expect a favorable reception from management for our case for change, we must present hard evidence of the costs of the status quo. Those costs steal from the profits and drive up the costs to the customer. Even worse, nonquality information contributes to customer dissatisfaction and lost and missed opportunity. If you help eliminate these costs, you create a win/win/win: a win for yourself and the enterprise, a win for your executives – your customers – in both accomplishing enterprise goals and their personal goals, and a win for your end customers.

Challenge the status quo – but do so in a win/win/win way with a business-centric vision. Measuring the costs is not enough. You must have a vision of what is possible to which your management can relate.

Present your vision in business speak, not meta data speak. A presentation at a recent conference addressed how to gain management commitment for meta data management. I seriously doubt that this is possible. Management does not want its information professionals managing something abstract. Management wants to exploit information to increase profit and market share and to decrease time to market and costs of doing business. To do that you must have good information resource data, i.e., meta data. Your message to management must be: "Now that I understand your objectives, this is how we can increase profit and market share and decrease time to market and costs of doing business. We will do this by eliminating the wasted time spent hunting for, chasing after and correcting information."

Give management a plan with the first steps for achieving the vision. When you have helped management feel the pain and given them a vision of how to solve their problems, you must also have a plan that includes the first steps required to achieve the vision. Do not expect approval for a vision with no realistic way to get there. However, do not dwell on project plan details. Culture change will never have every step laid out neatly from the start. New solutions create new problems.

Once you get management commitment, implement what you promised. If you envision problems, go to your sponsor with recommendations for adjustments. Your vision sets management's (i.e., your customer's) expectations. Failure to meet expectations results in an unsatisfied customer. Management will be more understanding of obstacles if you have predetermined measures to mitigate unexpected problems.

If your organization suffers from "change fatigue," find a complementary change initiative. This will help that initiative be successful in a win/win scenario. This leverages your value and minimizes the "not-another-change- project-to-take-more-of-my-already-strapped-time" phenomenon.

Measure information resource management (IRM) deliverables with metrics tied to business results. Because what you measure influences behavior, be sure you measure the right things. You sustain commitment when you measure the value of what you produce, again tying it to the business measures.

Educate, educate, educate. Point 6 of information quality is "Institute training." People cannot do what they need to do without training. Training is required for upper management, information producers and information management professionals. If we do not train everyone in the organization as to their stewardship roles and how to perform them, we create fear. To create an effective quality culture, we must "drive out fear" (Point 8 of information quality) for fear causes people to retreat to self-preservation tactics, reducing their time for value work.

You will get management and active involvement for the right information initiatives when you:

  • Understand that your key customers are executive management.
  • Understand the problems your executives must solve.
  • Link your mission and objectives to those of the enterprise.
  • Communicate clearly how your initiative helps management accomplish their objectives.
  • Communicate the costs of the status quo in ways that enable them to feel the pain.
  • Educate management as to the steps required.
  • Implement what you promised.
  • Measure the business benefits you produce.

What do you think? Let me know at

1. English, Larry. Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality: Methods for Reducing Costs and Increasing Profits. Chapter 9. Wiley, 1999.

2. Imai, M. Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low Cost Approach to Management. McGraw-Hill, 1997.

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