This is Part 2 of a 5 part blog post. If you have not already read it see Part 1 – The shape of the Zoo

There are three species in the low compliance area of the Data Zoo: the Data Whinger, the Data Squirrel and the Data Anarchist.

The Data Whinger

The Data Whinger typically exhibits low levels of activity relating to data, they would rather sit and complain that it is all too difficult, that the application is all wrong, that the company is wrong etc.

Positives

The Data Whinger, through their low level of activity, tends to create little poor quality data (thankfully) but what they do create may well need extra checking. As they can be quite a vocal type, you will usually know who they are and where they are. If you can listen to their complaints and ignore the emotion, they can give some clues as to what needs correcting

Negatives

The Data Whinger can make a lot of noise and demotivate others (see below). Even when you respond to their complaints, they may respond with another complaint “It’s not how I would have done it…”, “But you still haven’t taken into account….”, “The old system was better…” and “I still don’t see why we should change from the current process/system/standard…” etc.

Impact on others

The Data Whinger can make everyone’s working lives difficult, they will demotivate, derail and generally be obstructive. If you are the manager/data steward/project manager etc. who is trying to address their concerns and improve the standards, systems and processes of your organisation then you are putting yourself in the firing line of their complaints, so you need a suit of body armour to stay sane.

The Data Squirrel

The Data Squirrel will not see a need to conform to company standards for data, systems and processes. They will tend to be busy doing their jobs – what they see as important to them personally, but anything that they do not see as important to them will not get done. They may believe that “knowledge is power” and will be able to produce an email/memo/document to support any argument.

Positives

They will have data and information on many topics, some of it may not exist elsewhere, so can be a valuable source of information, if you are able to access their data hoard.

Negatives

The Data Squirrel typically will not make much noise. They will quietly hoard data, so long as it supports them getting their job done, but not make anyone aware of it. If you find a Data Squirrel and try to get access to their hoard of information, they may start to get more vocal and defensive.

Impact on others

They will often be very popular with colleagues, as they are seen as a useful source of information and are often heard to say “I’ve got that in a mail/spreadsheet/file somewhere…. Ah, here it is.”

Clearly from an organisational perspective, they are bad news, as they perpetuate their own private hoards of information which should be in corporate data stores.

The Data Anarchist

The Data Anarchist puts lots of energy into all the activities they do with data, it’s a shame that none of it is in corporate data systems! They will have a multitude of spreadsheets and databases, created unofficially and lovingly maintained to increase the perceived importance of their roles. Any attempt to make them conform may result in abuse and/or arguments that the corporate system is not as good as the system they have created. Some of them are very vocal about their activities, others keep quiet and hope they won’t be spotted.

Positives

The Data Anarchist puts lots of energy into data activities and may gather data that is not held elsewhere. They love new technologies and new approaches, but only if it is their idea.

Negatives

The Data Anarchist by their nature cannot conform to company standards and conventions, they love being a maverick and cannot be made to conform.

Their systems and spreadsheets are likely to duplicate corporate data sets and are likely to create future problems in de-duplication.

As the Data Anarchist’s activities may not be obvious, corporate decision makers may not be aware that they are not using up to date data.

Impact on others

The Data Anarchist can be a problem to resolve, they will not conform and love exploring new areas and generally rubbishing any corporate approaches. They perpetuate and worsen data quality problems, but they see themselves as doing a better job than the IT department. To their colleagues they may be recognised as not conforming, but they will often provide a good “service” to colleagues, shame they cannot provide the same service for others!

The next post in the series will consider the medium compliance data personalities see Part 3 – Medium compliance personalities.

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9 thoughts on “The Data Zoo (Part 2 of 5) – Low compliance personalities

  • 26th March 2010 at 12:16 am
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    Great post Julian,

    I find it personally troubling how much I can relate to each of these low compliance personalities, not only in terms of colleagues/clients that I have encountered during my career, but I myself have been known to exhibit such traits from time to time.

    When highly stressed, I can become very pessimistic and therefore Whinger-like. Sometimes I squirrel away important information until I feel it is the right time to reveal it — but then completely forget what it was in the first place. But perhaps it is the anarchist that I relate to best — when I am at my worst and convinced that I am a one-man army and have to do everything my way or it won’t get done properly.

    Perhaps my split personality isn’t all too rare — and of course, I certainly hope that I can also exhibit some of the more positive traits you will cover later in the series. 🙂

    Personality management is often more important than data management, since without the former, the latter will not have much of a chance to be successful.

    I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Cheers,

    Jim

    Reply
    • 26th March 2010 at 7:44 am
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      Jim,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I think I too have exhibited some of these traits at different times. Perhaps this could be the subject of a future post – how our approach to data evolves as our experience grows.

      Your comment about personality management is very pertinent – it does not matter how elegant our technical solutions and business processes are, if team personalities and conflicts get in the way of their effective operation we will not get the benefits we desire.

      Julian

      Reply
  • 26th March 2010 at 10:31 am
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    Following a couple of discussions on the subject, we have identified another species to add to the low compliance part of the Data Zoo – the Data Hedgehog.

    The Data Hedgehog can be found alongside the Data Whinger in the low compliance/low enthusiasm corner. They tend to do their own thing, but not very well and are very defensive whenever anyone questions how they work. They will tend to roll in to a ball and show their prickles whenever you try and look at what they are doing or make them change.

    The Data Hedgehog needs to be treated with caution and carefully coaxed out of their corner without making them show their prickles! Try not to get scratched in the process.

    Can you think of any other species to add to this part of the Data Zoo?

    Reply
  • 26th March 2010 at 10:44 am
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    Nice analogies in here, Julian.

    From a “data owner” discussion on my blog I have these words from Daragh O Brien:

    “My experience with “data ownership” projects run by IT Strategy teams is that they usually wound up either with IT owning everything (“you think it’s so important, you do it”) or an army of Information Gollums running around the business stopping people from doing anything with their Precious.”

    So maybe we can Gollum (man or animal?) to the gallery? – but not sure where.

    Reply
    • 26th March 2010 at 2:31 pm
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      Henrik,

      Thanks for the comments and suggestions.

      I think the Data Gollum is probably closely related to the Data Squirrel, but is much more passionate about his Precious. The Squirrel, having a hoard of nuts, may be less reluctant to pass some over.

      The “It’s IT’s problem” species will need a name and a place – I’ll think about that.

      Julian

      Reply
  • 26th March 2010 at 11:40 am
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    The Data Anarchist is just brilliant. Sometimes, I’d argue, anarchists are “born” because they are frustrated with organizations’ existing systems, methods, and data. Specifically in more bureaucratic environments, they create dBs because of lack of trust or control issues.

    Great analogies!

    Reply
    • 26th March 2010 at 2:34 pm
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      Phil,

      Thanks for the comment. I think most of the data personalities will be, to a certain extent, results of the organisational culture that exists. Creating an overly bureaucratic regime will encourage Data Anarchists and Jobsworths. However, I am also aware of a business that had a very free wheeling and entrepreneurial spirit which also encouraged Data Anarchists, so there is a fine balance to be struck here!

      Julian

      Reply
  • 26th March 2010 at 2:55 pm
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    Julian,

    Thoroughly enjoying the excellent analogies – well done. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Ken

    Reply
  • 26th March 2010 at 3:26 pm
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    Oh the characters that plague the world of information! Like Jim it bothers me just a tad that I can see these traits in myself. After all I should know better. I eat, sleep and breathe information optimization don’t I? Then why is that little folder squirreled away on my PC? Great article Julian, would love to see the rest of it…and if I can’t clap I’d at least say ouch!

    Reply

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