Category Archives: Communication

Use Common Language Please

A recent ITBusiness Edge blog post by @lorainelawson on “Why IT (vs Biz) Should Lead on Data Governance talked about who should be leading a data governance program and garnered some interesting comments on the subject of getting business leadership interested in investing in such a program. What interested me about this were the references to using common language when communicating with business. I’ve mentioned this many (MANY!) times yet continue to hear complaints from all sides about the use of terms, ancronymns and concepts that nobody understands. I mean how hard it is to understand that common language = common ground which leads to trust and collaboration? So maybe it’s just that we need some guidelines to help us do just that! So here are the few I’ve been ranting about:

  1. When organizing your message, if you are using ANY acronym, write out the words beside the acronym. People will then start to connect the two. If you don’t do it you will just get a lot of confused looks and grumpy recipients.  Here is an example of how it could look: “We would be in a better position to more effectively manage our information if we had an agreed upon IA (Information Architecture). 
  2. Now that you’ve written it out, is it self explanitory? If not, then you need to either provide a short description or link to a description. (The example in #1 provides a link to a description). If your recipient has to contact you for an explanation you’re not using common language. And if they have to search elsewhere for it you are wasting their valuable time.
  3. Don’t take a common or standard term and re-name it because you think the recepient might be more receptive. It’s a common term for goodness sake, don’t make it an un-common term!
  4. Don’t make up new terms, acronyms or labels without including your recipents in the process. Just how in the heck are they supposed to know what you are talking about? If they try to search for it (see #2 waste of their valuable time) and can’t even find it because it’s a made up word then you’ll be wasting their time AND they still won’t have any answers.
  5. Don’t use acronyms on page 2 of your document and provide their description on the page 27 appendix.
  6. Once you’ve written/videotaped/sung/or whatever your message, review it from the perspective of an outsider. Could they understand it’s meaning and respond appropriately?

In the world of Data Governance, and especially when trying to get business buy-in, using common language is a sure fire way to make sure we are all taking about the same thing. At the very least it will help identify when we aren’t talking about the same thing. It may not always be perfect, but it will look like you really took the time to make the message easy to comprehend, and it is sure to help you both on the road to common understanding. It can’t hurt right? Crikey, if dolphins can do it why can’t we?

Change Management, Communications, and Stirring up Stuff

Yesterday I tweeted that I was going to lay low for a bit because I had stirred some things up. Without going in to too much detail, I commented on an internal blog post that referenced a big corporate change that I didn’t believe any real change was going to occur as I had not seen any modeling of the desired behavior.

Well, did that set off a flurry of activity! And of course that was the whole point of my comment right? And I only said what everyone else was thinking, as many people came to thank me.  What happened next is that my feedback was publicly acknowledged, I was thanked for speaking out, and I was even asked to help with the change effort.

What I want to know is, have you ever seen this happen?  A big change is initiated, there is a robust series of important communications, yet the expected behavior is not modeled for others to follow. I am somewhat surprised that this happens as often as it does. Just do a quick search on google and you will find all kinds of references to instances of this happening. You will also find that in most cases one of the most frequent recommendations for implementing a SUCCESSFUL change, is for the leaders to show others what this change looks like. They need to lead the way by doing what they say they are going to do, and asking others ” how can I help you” ?

This is where my #creative or #insane brain starts to churn. What if our Communications Plan had a section on the modeling of the behaviors? Included would be a description of what the modeled behavior needed to look like, who should do it, how often, what the expected results are and the success measures? Easy peasy.. it’s not rocket science. And then…well who needs a change management plan right? ;)

Just sayin….

It’s not just about the data…

I was sitting in a traffic jam yesterday and there was nothing on the radio so my mind drifted and I started thinking about a couple of things that drive me..that I am passionate about, that I think are HUGELY important. There’s quite a list (ok stop rolling your eyes, it’s not that big) but here are the top three:

  • Communication. It should be in the format of the recipients choice, there should be a feedback mechanism and it should be frequent and comprehensive.
  • Feedback. I only know about 3 people who are really good at giving and receiving it. Everyone else…I never see it. How hard is it to tell someone you really liked their story, presentation, communication, whatever? They will LOVE you for it!
  • Information Sharing. It makes me so grumpy when people don’t share their information. And when they use the excuse because “it’s not yet final”, or “it hasn’t been approved yet” I have a really hard time hiding my body language so it’s not blatantly obvious that I think they are neanderthals…

So I am mulling these things over while sitting in traffic and I’m listening to a news story about a small group of ‘green’ keeners who have started a new thing called ‘Trash parties’. They invite people into their homes for good food and conversation, and then the host brings out the garbage for others to poke through and make suggestions on how they can be better at recycling.  At this point I’m thinking about that moldy three-week old chicken I found in the back of the fridge and tossed in the trash and wondering if they clean out their trash before the company comes. Kind of like those people who clean their house before the cleaning lady comes.

Anyway, I was mulling this over when my mind drifted back to the information sharing peeve of mine and thought what if…what if we did kind of the same thing with our information? We all have tons and tons of information in our personal private folders. You know those 3 versions of documents that are still in draft format? The important emails that house decisions that we have saved…the PDF’s that house industry knowledge? What if we invited our colleagues to poke through our information to see if there was something there that would be of value to them?  I can think of a couple of benefits to this:

  • Like the green keeners, we’d probably do a quick scan first and get rid of the triplicate versions of the same document.
  • We’d also remove some of the industry knowledge white paper stuff that is out of date (I’m sure I’ve got white papers from 2004 on the magic quadrant for CRM solutions).
  • All this pre-sharing information clean-up would help free up some much-needed server space.
  • And our colleagues might find some tidbit that we thought nothing of but could be something really important from their perspective!

The result of all this could be that those of us who don’t like to share might get a little more comfortable sharing information. And maybe, just maybe, we all start to have a better understanding of why all those silos of data and information might not be a good thing.

Ok, so maybe it is all about the data..

Don’t! Lie to me.


Lie to Me is one of the few shows on TV I actually watch. I LOVE it! It tells the story of Dr. Cal Lightman (played by another favorite: Tim Roth) and his team who use applied psychology to read facial and body language clues to expose the truth and lies in criminal investigations. The show is so popular that in November of last year it was renewed for another 9 episodes the first of which is scheduled to play on June 7th. I can’t wait!

What does this have to do with Data Quality? Nothing specifically, but it has everything to do with working with others to achieve common outcomes.

If you have been following my blog or tweets, or have read some of the comments I have posted on the blogs of others, you may have noticed that I sometimes make reference to behaviors I have observed that don’t enable trusting, collaborative partnerships; in fact they do quite the opposite! And these behaviors, displayed through facial and body language and, although quite subtle, can be very detrimental to the successful outcome of any project or program.

So why am I writing about this? I read body language. Steady. All the time. In every single encounter and meeting. I know pretty much what you’re thinking, who you like or dislike, what pushes your buttons, and when you are lying (OK, that’s pretty harsh, how about ‘when you are not telling the truth‘). Yes, those times when you verbally agree to something while shaking your head in a back and forth manner tell me that actually you DON’T agree at all, and if you do it with your arms folded across your chest or without eye contact it also tells me that you STRONGLY disagree.

And when you ask for my feedback but focus your eyes elsewhere it tells me that actually, you have no intention of listening to my feedback and in fact, you are probably thinking about what you need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home :p

These types of behaviors do not show trust. They do not suggest partnership, ‘we are in this together’ or ‘I care about your opinion or insight’. They tell me that some form of approach, unilateral decision or direction decision has been made and that regardless of what my, or the insights of others may provide, it will not be taken into consideration.

This is an issue. If you want your project, program, event or activity to be successful, you need to be aware of the motivations and feelings of others, and especially if you are working together as a team. Team: –noun - a number of persons associated in some joint action..

So if you have a common goal, and you want to achieve a successful outcome, you need to work together as a team. And in order to work together as a team, you need to trust each other. And in order to establish trust, you need to be honest. Just tell the truth. If you are making a unilateral decision you might have a perfectly good reason for doing so. Explain the reason. Be open about it. Say: “I need to do X because of Y”, or “I appreciate your feedback but cannot act upon because of this reason”.

You will be surprised at what will happen. The team will appreciate the honesty. They will, in turn, be more open and engaging. You will establish credibility. You will gain supporters. You will have increased chances for a successful outcome. And guess what, your body and facial language will look more like someone who is relaxed, trusting, open and engaging: direct eye contact, informal stature, relaxed arms. You get the picture.

So why do I love the show Lie to Me so much? It takes the reading of body language to the next level. It shows examples of minute facial expressions and body movements that you might not have noticed before and provides some real life examples as to what they probably mean. And I’m a good student! So watch out! I know what you’re thinking. Don’t lie to me!

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything” ~Mark Twain~

Attributes of a Data Rock Star

Earlier this week, Jill Dyché (@JillDyche), successful author, blogger, BI, MDM and Data Governance consultant and all around information guru, created a flurry of creactivity (I just made that word up – it’s a combination of the words creative and activity), when she tweeted a simple response that suggested a couple of data rock star types, in response to an excellent on-line article Are You a Data Rock Star? by Elizabeth Glagowski.

Elizabeth’s article has some excellent descriptions and examples of the attributes of what makes a great data rock star and Jill’s vigorous (and often humorous) take on business and IT alignment always identifies the rock star behaviors of being able to communicate the linkage between a company’s information and its business value.

The results of the flurried creactivity, was Jean-Michel Franco (@jmichel_franco) coming up with a name that was quickly adopted; “The Rolling Forecasts”, and Jim Harris(@ocdqblog), in his latest Obsessive Compulsive Data Quality blog post, coined the brilliantly perfect and perfectly brilliant lyrics to the band’s first song: “You can’t always get the data you want”.

So what I decided to do here was attempt to compile all these rock start attributes and behaviors in a simple format, so that they can be easily re-used and referred to. I plan on adding these to our internal wiki and identifying them as behaviors of successful data stewards. I a) hope they get read and b) hope that they get people thinking, behaving, changing…

· Excellent communicator of business and IT concepts using common language

· Ability to link information to business value

· Effective at communicating concepts and new ideas at early stages in order to reduce change management efforts

· Has excellent self awareness and understands the link between trust and partnership

· Is able to express thoughts and opinions in various ways in order to be able to provide feedback when others may not be interested in hearing it

· And seeks out and is receptive to feedback and continuously provides the opportunity for others to provide it

· Actually listens to the feedback and changes behavior/process/approach for continuous improvement (don’t get me started on people who ask for feedback but couldn’t give a rat’s a**..)

· Understands the link between clarifying expectations and how that will lead to success

· Ability to know how to engage and enthuse others – must understand the body language, communication preferences, motivations and needs of others

· Must be able to spot opportunities and take advantage of them – and especially do it in a way that others are unaware of it

· Must be comfortable pushing the boundaries in order to change things and do so in a way that others are unaware the boundary is being pushed

· Must be comfortable exerting authority and using it appropriately – all the while smiling and engaging others

· Is able to identify key success measures from both business and IT perspective and communicate effectively – at the beginning to confirm what is expected and throughout to continue to re-iterate value

· Is well liked and respected – this will ensure access to resources, tools, other stakeholders, hidden information (you KNOW that happens), and will help pave the way through political and cultural roadblocks

· Be able to articulate solutions as practical and logical and tie them directly to group/organizational goals

What do you think?