All I Really Need To Know About Data Quality I Learned In Kindergarten

Robert Fulghum's excellent book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten dominated the New York Times Bestseller List for all of 1989 and much of 1990.  The 15th Anniversary Edition, which was published in 2003, revised and expanded on the original inspirational essays.

A far less noteworthy achievement of the book is that it also inspired me to write about how:

All I Really Need To Know About Data Quality I Learned in Kindergarten

Show And Tell

I loved show and tell.  An opportunity to deliver an interactive presentation that encouraged audience participation.  No PowerPoint slides.  No podium.  No power suit.  Just me wearing the dorky clothes my parents bought me, standing right in front of the class, waving my Millennium Falcon over my head and explaining that "traveling through hyper-space ain't like dustin' crops, boy" while my classmates (and my teacher) were laughing so hard many of them fell out of their seats.  My show and tell made it clear that if you came over my house after school to play, then you knew exactly what to expect - a geek who loved Star Wars - perhaps a little too much. 

When you present the business case for your data quality initiative to executive management and other corporate stakeholders, remember the lessons of show and tell.  Poor data quality is not a theoretical problem - it is a real business problem that negatively impacts the quality of decision critical enterprise information.  Your presentation should make it clear that if the data quality initiative doesn't get approved, then everyone will know exactly what to expect:

"Poor data quality is the path to the dark side. 

Poor data quality leads to bad business decisions. 

Bad business decisions leads to lost revenue. 

Lost revenue leads to suffering."

The Five Second Rule

If you drop your snack on the floor, then as long as you pick it up within five seconds you can safely eat it.  When you have poor quality data in your enterprise systems, you do have more than five seconds to do something about it.  However, the longer poor quality data goes without remediation, the more likely it will negatively impact critical business decisions.  Don't let your data become the "smelly kid" in class.  No one likes to share their snacks with the smelly kid.  And no one trusts information derived from "smelly data."


When You Make A Mistake, Say You're Sorry

Nobody's perfect.  We all have bad days.  We all occasionally say and do stupid things.  When you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize for it.  You don't want to have to wear the dunce cap or stand in the corner for a time-out.  And don't be too hard on your friend that had to wear the dunce cap today.  It was simply their turn to make a mistake.  It will probably be your turn tomorrow.  They had to say they were sorry.  You also have to forgive them.  Who else is going to share their cookies with you when your mom once again packs carrots as your snack?


Learn Something New Every Day

We didn't stop learning after we "graduated" from kindergarten, did we?  We are all proud of our education, knowledge, understanding, and experience.  It may be true that experience is the path that separates knowledge from wisdom.  However, we must remain open to learning new things.   Socrates taught us that "the only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing."  I bet Socrates headlined the story time circuit in the kindergartens of Ancient Greece.


Hold Hands And Stick Together

I remember going on numerous field trips in kindergarten.  We would visit museums, zoos and amusement parks.  Wherever we went, our teacher would always have us form an interconnected group by holding the hand of the person in front of you and the person behind you.  We were told to stick together and look out for one another.  This important lesson is also applicable to data quality initiatives.  Teamwork and collaboration are essential for success.  Remember that you are all in this together.


What did you learn about data quality in kindergarten?