Category Archives: Sustainability

Data Quality is Key for Asset Management in Data Science

This post was motivated by two recent tweets by Dr. Diego Kuonen, Principal of Statoo Consulting in Switzerland (who you should definitely follow if you don’t already – he’s one of the only other people in the world who thinks about data science and quality). First, he shared a slide show from CIO Insight with this clickbaity title, bound to capture the attention of any manager who cares about their bottom line (yeah, they’re unicorns):

“The Best Way to Use Data to Cut Costs? Delete It.”

I’m so happy this message is starting to enter corporate consciousness, because I lived it throughout the decade of the 2000’s — working on data management for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). I published several papers during that time that present the following position on this theme (links to the full text articles are at the bottom of this post):

  • First, storing data means you’ve saved it to physical media; archiving data implies that you are storing data over a longer (and possibly very long) time horizon.
  • Even though storage is cheap, don’t store (or archive) everything. Inventories have holding costs, and data warehouses are no different (even though those electrons are so, so tiny).
  • Archiving data that is of dubious quality is never advised. (It’s like piling your garage full of all those early drafts of every paper you’ve ever written… and having done this, I strongly recommend against it.)
  • Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether the raw data we’re collecting is fundamentally good or bad — but we have to try.
  • Data science provides fantastic techniques for learning what is meant by data quality, and then automating the classification process.
  • The intent of whoever collects the data is bound to be different than whoever uses the data in the future.
  • If we do not capture intent, we are significantly suppressing the potential that the data asset will have in the future.

Although I hadn’t seen this when I was deeply enmeshed in the problem long ago, it totally warmed my heart when Diego followed up with this quote from Deming in 1942:

dont-archive-it

 

In my opinion, the need for a dedicated focus on understanding what we mean by data quality (for our particular contexts) and then working to make sure we don’t load up our Big Data opportunities with Bad Data liabilities will be the difference between competitive and combustible in the future. Mind your data quality before your data science. It will also positively impact the sustainability of your data archive.

Papers where I talked about why NOT to archive all your data are here:

  1. Radziwill, N. M., 2006: Foundations for Quality Management of Scientific Data Products. Quality Management Journal, v13 Issue 2 (April), p. 7-21.
  2. Radziwill, N. M., 2006: Valuation, Policy and Software Strategy. SPIE, Orlando FL, May 25-31.
  3. Radziwill, N.M. and R. DuPlain, 2005: A Framework for Telescope Data Quality Management. Proc. SPIE, Madrid, Spain, October 2-5, 2005.
  4. DuPlain, R. F. and N.M. Radziwill, 2006: Autonomous Quality Assurance and Troubleshooting. SPIE, Orlando FL, May 25-31.
  5. DuPlain, R., Radziwill, N.M., & Shelton, A., 2007: A Rule-Based Data Quality Startup Using PyCLIPS. ADASS XVII, London UK, September 2007.

 

Deming’s 14 Points Revisited. Twice.

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

After responding to the December 2014 discussion question to the Influential Voices from ASQ CEO Bill Troy, I’m thinking more about the question “Is Quality Ambitious Enough?” that he posed. In particular, I’m thinking about an article that was published in the December 2014 issue of Quality Progress.

The subtitle for the article, called “Whole New World,” is “Seasoned quality professionals rethink Deming’s 14 points for a new generation.” Certainly, rethinking tenets of a quality philosophy that has shaped our profession for the greater part of a century would be ambitious. However, I find that the “rethinking” done by these authors falls into the same trap that Brooks Carder did when he questioned whether the ASQ mission statement is ambitious enough: it assumes a capitalist society composed of products, services, employees, jobs, and customers. I’ll step through each of Conklin et al.’s 14 revised points, and share what I think the new points for management REALLY should be.

But first, a caveat: with the utmost respect for the experiences and credibility of the authors of this article, I was disappointed to see that all of the contributors were older white men (that is, clearly in their late 40’s or beyond… with varying shades of gray hair). With a sample size of 3 contributors, it’s easy to lack diversity, so I won’t hold it against them. But when embarking on a task as significant as reimagining Deming’s 14 points – we need the representation of women, minorities, and for goodness sake – the young people who are the gurus of the modern startup. They know things that the old “seasoned” guys won’t even be able to see. We need to know what those insights are too.

We are missing the opportunity to envision the practice of quality outside the bounds of the consumer mentality. 

So, point by point, here are my thoughts about Conklin et al.’s reimagining of Deming’s 14 points in the December 2014 Quality Progress. (Recognizing, of course, that attempting to do this on my own is limited from the start : )

Original Point 1: Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.

Conklin Point 1: Increase value through products and services that delight customers.

Radziwill Point 1: Create constancy of purpose for identifying and delivering value. (I think Deming had it half right, but was too focused on the commercial aspects of driving quality. Conklin, on the other hand, focuses on increasing value — which is still important, but not as significant without constancy of purpose, which can get you through tough times.)

Original Point 2: Adopt the new philosophy.

Conklin Point 2: Connect customer requirements to key process variables.

Radziwill Point 2: I’ve never really understood Deming’s 2nd point, probably because I didn’t live in the 1940’s and can’t possibly emotionally intuit what the “old philosophy” was. But I think this point has something very important to say about innovation that Conklin’s revision doesn’t address: We must always be ready to adopt new ideologies and approaches that support our ability to thrive and sustain ourselves, both as individuals and organizations. 

Original Point 3: Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.

Conklin Point 3: Prevent, where possible; inspect where necessary; implement process management. 

Radziwill Point 3: I like Conklin’s point here, mainly because I think en masse, industry is not as dependent on inspection as it once was. Most efforts are much more naturally tuned to prevention and process management, backed by decades of evidence that document the benefits of such efforts.

Original Point 4: End the practice of awarding business based on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.

Conklin Point 4: Pick the vital few suppliers based on total cost and fit with the organization.

Radziwill Point 4: Cultivate relationships with other organizations so that you can authentically resolve issues and pursue opportunities that would provide mutual benefit.

Original Point 5: Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service.

Conklin Point 5: Improve processes now; find those that will need it later; sustain gains over time.

Radziwill Point 5: I don’t see how you can improve upon Deming’s original point here — all it says is GROW. Grow, people. Grow in your understanding of what you need to produce, and how you can produce it, and how you can produce it effectively, and how you can improve the quality of life in doing so.

Original Point 6: Institute training on the job.

Conklin Point 6: Build training into jobs so employees can improve their performance.

Radziwill Point 6: Because you learn more deeply when you teach something, everyone should have the opportunity to share what they know, and learn from others. A productive organization is a vibrant learning community.

Original Point 7: Adopt and institute leadership.

Conklin Point 7: Know employees, listen to them, and give them what they need to excel.

Radziwill Point 7: Let leaders emerge. As a community, support the emergent leaders that champion collective values and goals.

Original Point 8: Drive out fear.

Conklin Point 8: Set clear expectations for reasonable standards, and hold all accountable.

Radziwill Point 8: (Come ON Conklin!! Accountability, if not implemented well, can have the unexpected consequence of creating even more fear. This point is about as pure and generalizable Deming as you can get. And we haven’t been able to do this systemically yet – if it’s happened in our organizations it is far from happening in our institutions and systems of governance – so we need to keep trying to do it.) Drive out fear.

Original Point 9: Break down barriers between staff areas.

Conklin Point 9: Build cooperation from the top down by reducing barriers between departments.

Radziwill Point 9: Build relationships with one another – inside the organization and between organizational boundaries – to grow more authentic partnerships from which quick and effective resolutions to issues might be possible.

Original Point 10: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.

Conklin Point 10: Connect targets and metrics to customer needs; train employees to understand them.

Radziwill Point 10: I actually like Conklin’s 10th point. I’d take out the word “customer” and just leave the needs. I’d train everyone involved – regardless of who they’re getting paid by – if they want more insight into how to solve the problem (sense the opportunity for social innovation here?)

Original Point 11: Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.

Conklin Point 11: Avoid arbitrary goals; prefer ones in which metrics encourage “right the first time”.

Radziwill Point 11: Avoid arbitrary goals in favors of those that will have meaningful impact on individuals and groups of people.

Original Point 12: Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.

Conklin Point 12: Measure employees against their personal best; use metrics they can track.

Radziwill Point 12: Help people contribute according to their greatest skills and abilities. Collectively celebrate each others’ successes, and constructively assist each other in the improvement effort.

Original Point 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.

Conklin Point 13: Help leaders model the right behaviors, and support the firm’s goals for training.

Radziwill Point 13. I don’t like how Conklin makes education and self-improvement something that needs to be judged against a standard (“right” might be different for everyone) nor do I like how self-improvement must be aligned with the firm (supporting the “firm’s” goals). What about the individual’s goals? Helping them achieve their goals for self-improvement will ultimately benefit society. So let’s help make that happen, and keep Deming’s original point.

Original Point 14: Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

Conklin Point 14: Align employees with jobs, suppliers and the firm and the firm with the future.

Radziwill Point 14: Everyone should provide opportunities for others to participate and contribute according to their current skills and talents, and those they would like to develop. We all help each other transform to meet new challenges and opportunities.

Also see “Are Deming’s 14 Points Still Valid?” — a post from November 2012.

The Future of Quality is Revolutionary

Image Credit: Dave Herod Photography (c) 2014

Image Credit: Dave Herod Photography (c) 2014

In his August post, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks “Is the future of quality evolutionary or revolutionary?

My answer is unequivocal: it’s revolutionary. We’re going to need new models for business, new models for education, and new models for living if we are to satisfy the stated and implied needs of an increasingly interconnected Internet of people and things, where the need for sustainability will (in many cases) trump the desire for growth.

“Quality is the totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” — ISO 9000, para 3.1.5

New models, however, aren’t always necessary. We can continuously improve elements of old models to increase quality, and the need for this won’t disappear. The future of quality includes evolutionary advancements, but won’t be defined by it, as we emerge into new collective paradigms for management. We’ve already experienced this once (in the late 1980’s and 1990’s), and we’re about to feel the reverberations of another shift.

A Harvard Business Review blog post from July 30 (“Management’s Three Eras: A Brief History”) explains why. The first two eras that we’ve had experience with are organization as machine (the era of Taylorism), and organization as knowledge and knowledge flows (as popularized by people like Peter Senge and Tom Davenport). Methods for establishing and improving quality have been defined, refined, and flourished in these two eras.

But the third and emerging era, according to this article, is the age of empathyorganization as a vehicle for creating complete and meaningful experiences:

“Today, we are in the midst of another fundamental rethinking of what organizations are and for what purpose they exist. If organizations existed in the execution era to create scale and in the expertise era to provide advanced services, today many are looking to organizations to create complete and meaningful experiences. I would argue that management has entered a new era of empathy.”

Although we have some available approaches for quality improvement in this kind of era, they are incomplete: Voice of the Customer tools, for example, may make our experiences with products and services efficient, effective, and satisfying — but possibly neither complete or meaningful. How do we, for example, create mechanisms to assess and improve quality in the sharing economy? In decommodified environments? In our own personal lives?

What do you think? Share your ideas in the comments.

Sustaining Excellence for the Long Term

In September’s question to the ASQ Influential Voices, CEO Paul Borawski asks how an established organization can maintain a record of excellence over the long term:

Let’s say you’ve reached the “holy grail” of quality and excellence. You make a great product. Your service is top-notch. You innovate. You’ve developed a culture of quality where employees and leaders are empowered. Now, how do you sustain all this…for years, decades, centuries? Everyone can name once-excellent companies that had trouble sustaining the very things that took them to the top.

I’m not going to summarize the messages of Jim Collins’ excellent summaries of research in Built to Last or Great by Choice, even though I think there are many important insights in both books. I want to focus on a new perspective on this question that I heard from Coca-Cola’s VP of Innovation, David Butler, at last week’s Business Innovation Factory (BIF-9) Summit in Providence, Rhode Island.

Butler acknowledges that startups are inherently great at launching new ideas and bringing them to fruition, whereas organizations like Coca-Coca are unparalleled in their ability to leverage their substantial assets (resources, skills, and networks) to scale ideas and broaden their impact.

This essential interplay between starting and scaling was what Butler wanted to capture within his organization.

By supporting the energy and enthusiasm within the maker movement, Coca-Cola is now participating in Startup Weekends that bring together Coca-Cola employees with community members to collaborate and explore possibilities for rapid innovation and a quick transition to commercialization. By providing the platform for entrepreneurs to explore new ideas alongside Coca-Cola employees who know the business, Coca-Cola is essentially acting as a hands-on Venture Capitalist who hops on board as idea generation is flourishing into actionable opportunity.

By inserting themselves into a unique slot in the value chain, Coca-Cola has found a novel way to sustain excellence for the long term.

The Positivity Trap

(Image credit: Doug Buckley of http:/hyperactive.to)

Positivity (pioneered by researcher Barbara Fredrickson) can help you become more productive, more fulfilled, and more creative and innovative — by expanding your ability to see and perceive opportunities. So of course, as a quality professional, I want to get it, and be it.

A few weeks ago, I was on a road trip with one of my best friends in the world. We were talking about continuous improvement and self-improvement when he suggested that I take Fredrickson’s little quiz to see where my positivity ratio was. According to her research, a ratio greater than 3:1 indicates that your psyche is in a regime to flourish.

I have always been an optimistic and highly positive person, but I’ve also been plagued by depression, limiting thoughts, and self-defeating behavior. But! I’d also just had one of the most wonderful days of my life (ever EVER in the history of history) so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see how HIGH my positivity ratio could be. Woohoo! Slam dunk!

I took the positivity test by answering the following 20 questions. It only takes a couple minutes. It’s at:

http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php

Imagine my shock when, after one of the most positive and fulfilling days of my life – one imbued with joy, hope, potential, and the wild excitement of being totally aligned with who I am and connected to what I am becoming — that my positivity ratio was a miserable 1.67!!

How could this be?? I looked more at the 20 questions, and realized that I had some pretty mean negative emotions getting in my way. Contemptuous, scornful, or disdainful? Check. Disgust, distaste, revulsion? Check… jealousy will do that, and I have issues with jealousy. Hate, distrust, or suspicion? Yeah, unfortunately. Scared, fearful, and afraid? Yep… any time you have a situation in life that you’re not quite totally accepting, it can lead to anxiety.

My positivity test was really depressing. But, as a belligerent optimist by nature, I asked myself what useful opportunity for improvement might this provide? The answer: don’t worry about getting more positive… see what you can do to manage — and eliminate — some of those negative, yucky feelings. Apparently they are more poisonous than I’d been aware of.

Fast forward to a month or so later, and I decided to take the positivity test again. I’ve been consciously managing my jealousy issues (haven’t succeeded yet, but I’m making the effort) — so the negative emotions associated with jealousy are saturating my life a little less. However, I am definitely nowhere near as fun-loving, amazed, hopeful, optimistic, inspired, serene, content, or in the zone of complete awesomeness and loving life as I was last time I took the test. I would suspect that my positivity ratio would be around the same as it was last time. But not so!!

The result? 2.67. Still not in the zone of flourishing, but enough point evidence for me that my strategy of managing negative emotions (and not working so much on trying to be fluffy and fun-loving) is paying off.

I had thought that positivity was all about being more positive. Now I realize the trap: it’s just as much about not being as negative, and not letting the negatives burn their cancer as deeply into your body.

The Two Faces of Social Responsibility

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

In his July post, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asked about the relevance of social responsibility. Although I already posted my initial thoughts, I’ve been thinking more about this question:

 “Have those that know quality raised their voices to explain to organizations that being socially responsible is not about philanthropy (giving money for social good), but about [doing well by doing good]?”

Based on my experience working with the development of the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility a few years ago, and the various articles I’ve read and discussions I’ve had with people about this concept over time, I think the thrust of social responsibility boils down to the following two points:

  • Are we operating ethically and responsibly?
  • Are we making the world a better (or “less bad”) place?

Although many discussions and perceptions of social responsibility are anchored in the second question, most of the guidance in ISO 26000 focuses on the first question! Only two of the ISO 26000 core subjects (human rights & the environment) really align with the philanthropic “corporate treehugger” mentality (discussed by Tim Mohin recently in Fast Company), and all of the core principles reflect shared values that pertain as much to the quality of life within the organization as outside of it.

Also, WORLD can mean a multitude of different things, and any definition you adopt should be perfectly OK. The ISO 26000 core subject of “community development” means that we can do well by doing good in any community – whether our own, or ones in general. You don’t have to make everyone’s world a better place, just someone’s world.

The Mohin article also notes that one goal of social responsibility initiatives in an organization is to “bring a conscience to the corporate structure” – so even if an organization is doing no philanthropy, as long as they are engaged in continually improving the well-being of a community (even if that community is within the organization) – they are still contributing to social responsibility.

At the same time, it’s possible for the most philanthropic, non-profit organization that’s doing AWESOME things to make the world a better place — to not be socially responsible at all by not adhering to ethical and responsible business practices.

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