What Will You Tolerate?

April 13, 2011
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One of my kid’s favorite books when they were younger had the line “never tease a weasel (it isn’t very nice)”.  Taking this to the world of blogging I have a similar saying “never annoy a blogger”.  We have pressure to write at least once a week and are always looking for ideas.  Make us mad and you’ll become a topic of interest.

One of my kid’s favorite books when they were younger had the line “never tease a weasel (it isn’t very nice)”.  Taking this to the world of blogging I have a similar saying “never annoy a blogger”.  We have pressure to write at least once a week and are always looking for ideas.  Make us mad and you’ll become a topic of interest.

Editor’s note: Rob Armstrong is an employee of Teradata. Teradata is a sponsor of The Smart Data Collective.

So what irked me this past week?  The setting of timeframes and then the almost casual acceptance of people that don’t meet (or respect) the time lines.  In this case, it was a large conference call set for 11:30 Pacific.  At the appointed time, there were over 200 people on the call.  The meeting started with “we are going to wait 5 minutes for any late comers”.  So in other words the 200 plus people that can manage a schedule and be on time are less important that a few stragglers.  That is not a good message to send to your audience.

The worse part is that the organizers are promoting and creating the situation where people will not call in on time for future events.

Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence, and it only proves the saying that the majority of our problems are self-inflicted.  Applying that to our world of interest (data management, et al) the question has to be asked as to what behavior are you tolerating that is creating behavior you do not want?  Any parent in the reading audience should be able to quickly related to this problem as well (for more parenting tips see my “Parents Guide to Raising a Data Warehouse” article in Teradata Magazine Volume 7 Issue 3)

Examples of creating bad behavior through unwarranted tolerance are easy to find.  A perfect example is from a company that took months to create a “data warehouse guiding principle” document.  In it, there was a principle that data would be leveraged in the database as opposed to extracting out to external data marts.  Despite this effort and agreement, the first project up for review had a design where data would be extracted to a cube for “performance” reasons.  No testing was ever done to see if the performance from the core data warehouse was good or bad, it was just assumed that cubes are better.  The project got funded and that company is now going through an “integration exercise” to once again try and get a consistent body of data.  The problem: too many cube extracts and individual data definitions.

And it is not just internally that this happens.  We all know the problems with traveling these days and some airlines charging for checked baggage.  This means that more people are bringing more bags to the gate (creating other problems at boarding).  As I was sitting at the gate one day the announcement was made that the plane would be full, overhead space will be a concern for those boarding later in the process, and if you would want to check your bag now the fee would be waived.  Once again, they are just motivating people to bring as much as possible to the gate in hope of having the fee waived during particularly busy times!

Once you become aware of this phenomenon, you find it almost everywhere in your professional and personal life.

So how to correct or avoid this from happening?  If we create most of our problems, then the good news is that we can solve them as well.  The first step is that you have to understand your priorities and what you will or will not tolerate.  Once that is known then decisions are easy and actions are aligned amongst groups and much more relevant to your desired outcomes.

So the question of the blog is do you have a set of priorities or guidelines that are used to frame and form your decision making?  If you do are those shared across the company and not only agreed to but acted upon in that agreement?  If you don’t then 1) why not and 2) how do you make or defend your decisions on what to execute?

Just as a starter kit of sorts, here is a quick example of guiding principles:

1) The users will be able to access the data without delay caused by any other processes.

2) The data model will reflect the business not the functions of the day

3) There will be no artificial barriers to loading the data,

4) The data warehouse will reflect the data from the operational system

5) Data replications shall be held to a minimum

6) New subject areas will need to be justified with a business case

7) The key goal for the warehouse is ability to influence and enhance action-taking processes

All of these can be explored in further depth and I have even written some white papers that detail many of them.  I am going to let them sit as is for now and then your comments or interest in the white papers can determine if a deeper blog on the subject is warranted.  For now, go find who has your guiding principle and make sure you are not tolerating exceptions to those priorities.