Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's Acknowledge "Practices"

I was reviewing some documentation about Information Management governance today and came across that ubiquitous people-->process-->technology model again. When I see it, regardless of its flavour, I always reflect on the way we approach organizational change, in particular change driven / enabled by technology, with an underlying presumption of a completely "engineerable" end to end solution.

There seems to be a regular failure to acknowledge that "people exercise free will as they see fit, in all circumstances." Knowledge workers in particular make hundreds of micro-decisions on a daily basis. Their attention, time, support, contributions and even compliance with changes to how work is done, when there is latitude for discretion, can only be volunteered. This means clear direction, encouragement and support at a wide variety of levels are required vs. an expectation that either staff will "do what they are told" or that they simply need options other than compliance removed.

So let's start using a people-->practice-->process-->technology model so we can accomodate the human factor, and acknowledge that not all work can be reduced to a series of detailed "must do" steps in a process flow chart.


jamie showkeir said...

right on! thanks for the simple and power post.

Patti said...

Hi, Dale,

Like the insertion of "practice" in the standard triad... I've actually replaced "process" with "work practice" myself as I think work practices are more the case for knowledge workers.



Neil MacAlpine said...

The fifth rule of thumb for knowledge management is "People are canny; they will appear to conform". I have seen business process practitioners assume that the business process agreed to by the community of practitioners will continue to be operative the next working day. The reality is the community by being reflective about their processes will be inventing upgrade 1.01 as they walk out the door of the meeting.
"So, how are you doing this work today?" is the operative question a week later.

Peter Zakrzewski said...

I was also musing about the relationship between technology and people this weekend when a friend of mine asked to me explain to her where Mac OS X was storing her photos. Being a Windows users, she was very concerned that OS X didn't use file folder structures the way she was use to. Compared to Windows, alot of control / ability to excerise free will is taken away.

OS X is one of those platforms that uses the "Easy to do the right thing, but nearly impossible to do the wrong thing" philosophy.

Example, OS X makes it very difficult for you play around with (move and delete) files outside the application that were designed to use them. Good luck trying to decipher a unix based folder structure in the OS Finder.

iTunes is your music organizer. Where are they stored on your Hard Disk? What format? To the average Joe, who cares! iPhoto is your photo organizer. Where are they stored on your Hard Disk? What format? To the average Joe, who cares! The "back-end" becomes invisible.

And when I think about a person's ability to excercise their free will, OS X removes alot of the controls from the user and gives them just enough room to excercise their free will without the ability to be dangerous.

Keeping that in mind, if technology unfortunately seems to be the default solution to our IM woes, how can we design our information management systems to not only easily do the right thing, but also nearly impossible to do the wrong thing.

Anonymous said...

Good read.

Basically you're saying we should apply change management to our change management process.

I agree. I've always been a firm believer that no matter how good technology/systems are, they are only as good as the users who use them.