Thursday, 18 February 2010

Can motivations impact the state of data quality?

I recently finished reading a fascinating book about motivation, called Drive, written by Daniel H. Pink. The book guides us through traditional motivators that drive performance and goes on to discuss a paradigm shift occurring within factors that motivate us in life, and in the workplace.

The book got me thinking about data quality professionals and the things that motivate us within our work.

Lets look at an example

Within our organisation we have a team of enthusiastic, passionate data quality professionals.

Lets look at possible motivations within their roles:

Intrinsic Motivators
  • They are passionate about Data Quality
  • They want to rid the organisation of poor quality data
  • They strive to be the data experts within their organisation
Extrinsic Motivators
  • They need to hit objectives set by managers (linked to annual bonus payment)
  • They need to ensure the organisation adheres to regulatory compliance
  • They have a pressure to deliver ROI to the organisation
Based on the motivators above, lets look at two differing scenarios:

Scenario #1

The DQ team is given autonomous reign within the organisation. They listen to the business, focus on their key issues, solve a number of data quality issues and become trusted advisors. The Intrinsic motivators of the team members are completely satisfied, and the team is heralded as a success by the business community, therefore demonstrating ROI.

Scenario #2

The DQ team, who report directly to the CFO, are engaged in a CFO sponsored program to become financial data experts and to ensure that the organisation achieve regulatory compliance. This long-term program was initiated due to a number of data quality issues that risked compliance failure. The DQ team have been supplied with a checklist that, once adhered to, will ensure that the organisation is fully-compliant and the team will be deemed a success.

So what about the motivations?

In both scenarios the team are satisfying both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Scenario #1 saw the DQ team particularly satisfy their intrinsic motivators, where as in scenario #2, their extrinsic motivators were challenged to ensure that compliance was met.

How do you feel motivating factors impact upon the performance of DQ activity within an organisation?

DQ as a checklist

Within scenario #2 it was noted that the DQ team work to ensure that a checklist is satisfied, which will in turn ensure that the organisation achieves compliance.

By placing emphasis on the pressures of successfully completing a checklist, do we risk a negative impact on the performance of DQ efforts within an organisation?

Yes, completion of the checklist in the example above would ensure regulatory compliance, but will it come at the cost of poor DQ, and the potential of cutting corners within areas that do not have to adhere to compliance? Let me know your thoughts.


Jim Harris said...

Great post Phil!

I am a Daniel Pink fan – his book “A Whole New Mind” was great. I own a copy of “Drive” but I haven’t started reading it yet.

I definitely agree that motivations have an impact. Working a checklist isn’t motivational – even a well-written data quality checklist.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are essential for true success – but intrinsic motivators are more important. Most people like to feel that their work in more meaningful than just a means to an end (e.g., a bonus check or simply the “joy” of continued employment).

I think that one of the primary reasons that most people are neither enthusiastic nor passionate about data quality because its importance to the organization is explained using only extrinsic motivators.

Leadership that measures accomplishment beyond simply checklists and project plan milestones is required to foster an environment of intrinsic motivation – of course, completing checklists and achieving milestones is important too.

Best Regards,


Phil Wright said...

Thanks Jim, I haven't read "A Whole New Mind" but shall look for it in the bookshop this weekend.

Yes, I think that there needs to be a balance for true success - checklists and milestones need to be achieved, but at the same time we need to stimulate these intrinsic motivations.

A good concept discussed in Daniel Pinks book is around having 20% time, where people can spend 20% of their time on a project of their choice. Time-permitting I think that this would be a fantastic idea to stimulate a DQ team. 80% of the time concentrated on the checklist, compliance satisfaction etc. and 20% of the time dedicated to solving the problems that the team hold in highest interest.

Daniel Pink said...

Fascinating post. Good questions all. Many thanks for picking up a copy of DRIVE. Glad you enjoyed it.
Dan Pink

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