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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Don’t use acronyms on page 2 of your document and provide their description on the page 27 appendix.
- 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?
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..