Danette McGilvray, September, 2023

Anyone remember the 2008 movie Get Smart? Our hero, Maxwell Smart, is an eager analyst promoted to CONTROL field agent with the assignment to uncover the master plan of KAOS, their enemy. During a briefing with other field agents, Smart explains how he analyzed the information he had gathered to better understand their adversary. At one point, an agent asks how Smart could possibly know this information. Incredulously, Smart responded something to the effect of “What? You didn’t read page 642 of the report I sent?”

While Agent Maxwell Smart was dead serious in his response, it was clear that no one had read his lengthy, detailed report. Agent Smart was not so smart. How can you avoid his mistakes?

Your message needs to be heard more than once

Have you noticed when a new film is released, you seem to hear about it everywhere? It shows up on social media, television, magazine ads, and posters by a bus stop or in the subway. Stars appear on popular talk shows and trailers of the upcoming movie are shown in the theater. This level of visibility doesn’t happen by accident. All of the media exposure is part of a well-thought-out publicity plan.

Likewise, we need multiple communications to achieve our goals. Yet how often do we play out a scenario similar to Agent Smart’s when communicating about our data quality and governance initiatives? Its a funny scene in the movie, but in real life it is not at all humorous when someone asks a question about data quality and the response is, “I covered that in the email I sent last month.”

Adult learning theory includes the “Rule of 7” which says that “most learners need to be exposed to new information 6-8 times, in different processing styles, before they can retain the information and use it effectively.” (https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/files/w2pts/dcf-trainers/adult-learning-review-chart.pdf).

To achieve optimum results, we need a well-prepared and executed communication plan.

Get started

Start your communication plan by creating a table (in a document or spreadsheet, for example) with the following columns:

· Audience: Who needs to hear this information? Who will be affected? Consider organizations, teams, and individuals. Expect to have several audiences identified. Is there anyone specifically who should not receive the communication?

· Message and Desired Action: What you want the audience to learn (what is changing, how they are impacted, etc.) and what action they need to take.

· Trigger: What timing or event initiates the communication? For example, the first week in the quarter, a monthly management meeting, or when a phase of the project is complete.

· Communication Vehicle: Method of communication, such as in-person presentations, Zoom meetings, e-mail message with file attachments, blog posts, website announcements, newsletter articles, YouTube videos, social media posts, or phone calls.

· Development: Identify who will develop and create the communication, along with who will provide content and input.

· Delivery: Identify who will present the communication. (This may be the same or different from those responsible for development.)

· Other Action: Anything else needed to complete the communication.

· Target Date: Planned date for the communication.

· Complete Date: Date when the communication is completed.

Fill in the template with whatever you know. Maybe you have several audiences you want to reach; if so, write them all down. Perhaps you have specific messages you need to get out, but don’t know the audiences yet – write down the messages and desired action. Use the template as a starting point and add or delete columns and information according to your needs.

Spend 10 minutes making a list of the various communication vehicles available to you in your organization. It may include such things as e-mails, newsletters, websites, blogs, social media, phone calls, videos, presentations at staff meetings and larger organizational sessions. Many companies offer “lunch and learns” which are excellent opportunities for employees to hear about new ideas over their midday meal. Individual meetings (one-on-ones) or inviting someone to lunch can be important personal engagement that help get your message across effectively. Take advantage of your various communication methods when developing your plan.

Work your communication plan

· Create your plan early in your data efforts.

· Refer to it, update it, and use it as a reminder for communicating.

· Complete the communications!

· Capture results and feedback from your communications.

· Follow-up on action items resulting from your communications.

Remember that real communication is a two-way street and listening is as important as talking!

The importance of good communication

Appropriate communication throughout your data quality and governance work is critical because it will help you:

· Raise awareness of the business impact of your data initiative and its part in supporting your organization’s most important customers and business needs

· Obtain and sustain management support

· Provide visibility to and maintain support from all those impacted by the project, including other stakeholders and team members

· Share successes

In data initiatives, it is often the “human factor,” not technical issues, which cause failure. As difficult as implementing the technology can be, dealing with the people and personalities in an organization can be even more daunting. Communication is one critical aspect of the human factor. While communicating takes time and effort, failure to do so will guarantee wasted time and effort. If you don’t communicate, your project will most likely fail to meet its goals or the data will obtain only limited use. Worse, the data might be just what is needed but people don’t trust it and so won’t use it. Ignoring communication won’t help you gain anywhere near the traction or return on investment that you envisioned. Remember, communicating is part of your work, not something that gets in the way of your work.

To have a successful data quality or governance initiative, you must be smarter than Agent Smart. Develop your plan and communicate, communicate, communicate!

Note: Portions of this article contain material from the book Executing Data Quality Projects: Ten Steps to Quality Data and Trusted Information™, 2nd Ed. (Elsevier/Academic Press, 2021) by Danette McGilvray, See https://shop.elsevier.com/books/executing-data-quality-projects/mcgilvray/978-0-12-818015-0 This article Copyright 2023 by Danette McGilvray, Granite Falls Consulting, Inc. (www.gfalls.com) All rights reserved worldwide.

An internationally respected expert, Danette McGilvray guides leaders and staff as they increase business value through data quality and governance. This data approach benefits focused initiatives (such as security, analytics, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, data science, and compliance) and means that high-quality data will support whatever is most important to an organization, protect its data assets, and help manage risk. Focusing on bottom-line results, Granite Falls’ strength is in helping clients connect their business strategy to practical steps for addressing specific data quality/governance issues, implementing on-going foundational programs, and improving operational processes.

As president and principal of Granite Falls Consulting, Inc., Danette is committed to the appropriate and effective use of technology and also to addressing the human aspect of data management through communication and change management. Danette is known for her Ten Steps™ approach to data quality which has been embraced as a proven method for creating, managing, and sustaining high-quality data in any organization. She is the author of the book Executing Data Quality Projects: Ten Steps to Quality Data and Trusted Information™, 2nd Ed. (Elsevier/Academic Press, 2021). Contact her at danette@gfalls.com, connect with her on LinkedIn: Danette McGilvray, and follow her on Twitter: @Danette_McG.

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