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Larry EnglishInformation Quality & Management Transformation

by Larry English

April 2009


I recently received an email from one of my early clients. After having worked in four different companies in four different industries, she came to a sad conclusion, writing:

“The thing that they all have in common is a desire to cut corners and deal with quality later. It takes a lot of energy to be the information quality cheerleader, and I find it discouraging and overwhelming at times. Keep writing your articles and books to encourage all the people like me who are dealing with these issues every day.” P. G.

The discovery that P. G. has experienced is, unfortunately, the norm—not the exception. There are two critical elements in this experience.

The first is embedded in W. Edwards Deming’s Second Point of (his 14 Points of Quality), “Adopt the New Philosophy: ‘Reliable product and service reduces costs.’” However, Dr. Deming said Point 2 “really means a transformation of [American style] management” (The Deming Management Method, p. 59.) “We can no longer tolerate commonly accepted levels of mistakes, defects, material not suited for the job….” (Out of the Crisis, p. 26.)

Mistakes, errors, untimely information all increase costs of doing business. Management that does not go to Gemba may insulate it from knowing how wasteful their processes are when defective information causes processes to fail, incurring costs of failure itself, the cost to recover from the failure and data correction (data cleansing) required.

The second part of this is that IQ professionals must not just complain that management does not listen to them and change their “defective” management practices. We must be more than “cheerleaders;” we must be missionaries, calling for a conversion from the practices of managing based upon time to delivery and costs alone, that invariably reduces quality while increasing costs of failure and information scrap and rework.

Kaoru Ishikawa, one of the eminent Japanese quality gurus used to say, if we are going to solve problems, we must, “Speak with Data.” We must remember that management needs data that illuminates a problem, so they can make the right decision. IQ professionals, need to understand their manager’s need for information and provide that data in a way that is compelling and true.

Most managers believe that their processes are working properly because our organization is making a profit. If they have never measured the costs caused by defective information, they feel there is no need to change.

So, the most important quality management process to address this management situation is TIQM® (Total Information Quality Management) Process, P3, “Measure the Cost of Poor Quality Information” (Improving Data Warehouse and Information Quality, pp. 199-235.)

Go find a business manager who is feeling some pain in their business area caused by poor quality information. They will be delighted if you can help them measure the costs of poor quality and then improve the upstream processes to eliminate the root cause, so they can eliminate the wasteful information scrap and rework activities and become more productive.

Management has basically three choices in the emerging “realized” Information Age. They can:

  1. Maintain the status quo, maintaining the current “cost-of-failure” and information scrap and rework that creates competitive disadvantage and risk of business failure
  2. Play at Data Quality, implementing “data cleansing” or “inspect and correct” that only attacks the symptoms, again leading to competitive disadvantage and the risk of business failure
  3. Lead the transformation, recognizing that proactive, Information Quality Management with process improvement to eliminate root causes and with it the defective information that drives up business costs. This leads to competitive Advantage with increased profits, increased end-customer satisfaction and internal knowledge worker satisfaction as people no longer have to waste time in information scrap and rework and can concentrate on performing their value work more effectively and on innovation for tomorrow’s products and services.