Relationships, data modeling and the cops

My small suburban Ohio township police department went viral on Facebook. It wasn’t because of murder, police brutality or other heinous crime. David Oliver, the Brimfield Township Police Chief, has become an internet sensation (his very words). The chief knows the importance of relationships with his community and his Facebook crazy cousins (his very words again).

Data modeling bears little resemblance to law enforcement, but there is much to be learned from police officers. Building and nurturing relationships is a key trait that good police officers possess. I am speaking at Enterprise Data World about the traits data modelers can leverage to excel in their careers and daily activities. Here is a snippet from the session that explores the importance of relationships.

  1. Live by a commitment to help people.
    Data modeling may seem like a walk in the park for data professionals. Educating and mentoring developers, business users and coworkers about data modeling and design expands the influence of the data team. Data modelers also need to walk a mile in developer and team member shoes to better understand how to forge good relationships.
  2. Work well with difficult people in difficult situations.
    Too often the tendency is to avoid difficult situations. It is those very situations that need our involvement. Stepping forward to be the person who works hard to gain consensus and set clear expectations is not forgotten. Team members want a relationship with a person who can help them through difficult times. Be the person who has this reputation.
  3. Possess the capacity for empathy and compassion.
    Battle lines are often drawn during the data design process. It is good practice to approach each step as an intermediate step. Encouraging discussion allows the modeler to respond positively and with concern to the team. When in doubt on how to proceed, always look for the most reasonable solution to move forward.
  4. Possess and demonstrate integrity.
    The enforcement of data policies and standards brings out the cop in data modelers. Integrity is measured in how consistently and fairly the data modeler handles these tasks. Beyond enforcement, the modeler’s integrity is shaped by how they honor data design commitments and expectations. Remember to deliver on time and as promised.
  5. Leverage your ability to collaborate.
    Data modeling is not just ready, set, model. The best data design teams are just that, teams. Approach data modeling as a team exercise. Modelers own the process in the methodology but the development team needs to own the design to assure success and adoption. Be sure to govern as a team. Assure that all voices are heard when decisions must be made.
  6. Know the difference between observing and seeing.
    Taking a cue from Sherlock Holmes, modelers need to know the difference between observing and seeing. We have all seen development teams shortchange data modeling. Modelers need to more keenly observe what is going on and find the root cause of the issue. The good relationship skills detailed above helps us become more observant to change what is seen.

I am presenting at Enterprise Data World 2014 in Austin, Texas.  I hope that you will join me in my session: And Other Duties as Assigned – Embracing New Roles to Grow in Your Enterprise. #EDW14

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