Thursday, December 15, 2016

What's in a Name, Part II

I've done some occasional browsing in Intellipedia and it is turning out to be a nice, if still limited, resource. The search feature is useful; for instance I found xx (a moderate number) of hits on the term "knowledge management." These hits are from the Intelligence Community's commentary, a meta-meta-data if you will. You won't find these connections through a conventional Google search as Intellipedia's search is not "federated." I've found some useful stuff that I plan to return to again sometime soon.

More exciting is the random page feature, something every wiki should support. The first few tries led me to pages similar to the CIA World Factbook. The next one was a serendipitous discovery of...

BOSPIAR - Innovation on Demand

My first impression was this was a serious case of acronymitis. But as I read the short series of posts, I find that the author is on to something. He is a describing the symptoms of a common organizational behaviour.

In IT, we are always using BOSPIAR for problem solving. It is used frequently in engineering, and more often than not in finance. It also seems to be the prevelent approach to our fledgeling LEAN efforts. Where do you use it in your organization?

BOSPIAR is a useful name for a common pattern, and I'm putting it into my Acronym Watch List.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

How Intermediation Scales

This is an update to a talk I’ve prepared on knowledge management in organizations.  In a twitter conversation I said “intermediation scales.” When questioned at the time I couldn’t explain. Since then I’ve experimented and discovered how intermediation perpetuates and grows.

I draw upon the work of Michael Roberto’s “Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer” and in my talk show in Slide 18 how his three Cultures, along with the addition of a “Culture of Self,” align with the process learning forms:

Process Learning
Front line
Core Group
Shadow Core

Organizations skew towards these cultures and the culture amplifies a certain framing of knowledge.  When we remove the Core and Shadow patterns we have a bipolar pattern of “Self versus Yes”. This occurs when knowledge flows freely and feedback is immediate and responsive. This direct and intimate relationship is the elusive Self-Organizing Team.  

Adding time, distance, people and even technology increases complexity.  Scaling up involves communications loss.  Scaling out is more desirable, however we don’t understand complex social systems well enough to understand how.  For scaling up, the mechanism is rather simple:

  • ·         Intermediation increases through inattention
  • ·         It scales up through norms of inattention (normalization of deviance)
  • ·         It is reduced by focusing, which restores context 

Hence overly strong cultures which are fixated on a single purpose may also attend to unnecessary things.  And looser cultures and certain types of competitive cultures can improve focus.

This perspective on scaling supports my claim in Slide 22 that loose coupling is essential to smoothly functioning networks. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Science and Sense-making and Hype and Promises

I was reading the slides from Dave Snowden's (@snowded) talk at KMWorld this week.  Most unfortunately I could not make the show and his Keynote.

In his talk two slides stand out for me. The first is titled “The nature of the system constrains how we can act in it.”  In this slide, Dave describes an ontological based set of principles for working with Ordered, Chaotic and Complex systems.  In regards to the Complex domain, one of the principles is “Real time feed back for control via modulators

I think we need to carefully consider the wisdom Dave shares.  Modulators are not algorithms. Modulators are people who have the experience, gained by praxis, to disintermediate the contextual data.  From an anthro-centric standpoint, algorithms cannot sensibly switch the variable links.  For sensible means sense-making, in the manners that Dave describes in the slide titled “How do we avoid the hype and the false promises.”  

I’ve annotated the quadrants with my understanding of philosophy, which is nowhere near the caliber of Dave’s.  The annotation in the lower right (Prediction & high risk Scaling) is drawn from contemporary events. Readers might recognize it more readily by the old adage “History is written by the victors” (Walter Benjamin).  

I also think there is a spiritual dimension in sense-making that needs to be included; for it is the spiritual connections between us that most strongly influence the promises we give and receive.  However I am not at all qualified to describe where the spiritual lies in this framework.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Thinking about Governance and Managing Constraints

I follow Dave Snowden's writings on a regular basis.  The following tweet by Dave grabbed my attention, as it is in line with my evolving ideas on complexity in bureaucratic systems.
“We need to stop talking about governance and start talking about constraint management”
I was about to reply with a quick question on governance, but didn't. In pausing I gave the matter some further consideration. In the shower I asked myself, what other practices do we need to consider?   The answer I found is posted here

Basically what we have a 2X2 matrix of Managed Constraints, Algorithms, Instinct and Governance. These correspond with the Cynefin domain's ideas of practice:

  • Managing Constraints is emergent, and thus locked to the Complex domain. 
  • Algorithms are Complicated, but note that there is a penchant for local optimization. As a result, we miss the black swans. 
  • Governance is overly constrained and thus fixed in the Obvious domain. 
  • Instinct is inherently Chaotic as the combination of individuals and circumstances is path dependent (see slide 4).
Further consideration of this matrix reveals the characteristics of the system (slide 6):

  • In the complex domain we design rituals to modulate decision processes.  See the Wikipedia entry to gain a sense of  how rituals are enacted into practice.
  • Treating governance as programmable as suggested by Daniel Kkahneman's 'Strategy firms can think smarter', is just the latest idea in a long string of algorithmic management approaches dating back to Taylorism, McGregor's Theory X, and others. 
  • In the obvious domain we design rules to modulate behaviors. It is easy, nay obvious, to prohibit bad behavior, and most rules are written accordingly.  In government every incident of fraud, waste and abuse seems to result in another rule, the consequence of which is bureaucracy by straight-jacket - an employee's hands are tied behind their back and the public is left wondering why service is so poor.
  • In both the Algorithmic and Governance quadrants the activities we choose - local optimization and a penchant for stability - serve to hide key aspects of social systems. Intermediation is amplified in these domains.
  • Engagement with the subject in both Managing Constraints and Instinct are by definition means of disintermediation. They differ in their approach. Dave recommends probes and safe-to-fail practices along with other ideas; please read his blog.
  • Instinct is far from perfect, witness the many types of cognitive bias that have been cataloged. And after all, the future is unknown. There is a particular class of these unknowns that are important here in the Chaotic domain.  This is the subset of unknown-unknowns we recognize as unintended consequences. This result of these consequences is damaged relationships and a loss of potential relational energy.
No decision is consequence free. However, how we approach decisions matters. There is a significance difference between the probing methods of Dave's safe-to-fail, and the brute force (fail-safe?) or totally naive practices that people partake.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Decision Lens for Complexity

This slide deck is a study of management and managing which is then set up in i-space, Max Boisot's classic reference for knowledge management. The practice of managing is drawn from Art Kleiner's "Core Group" theory. I demonstrate how knowledge work (the social learning cycle) is tangential to managing, and present a way that this can be studied using Cognitive Edge methods and tools.

A decision lens for complexity v10 from tony1234

A small repair

For some time my blog has been dysfunctional. All of the links were dead, the embedded slideshares were likewise merely static images. I have tried on a couple of occasions to adjust the template, without success. I've sent a couple of messages to the admins; with no feedback I have been at a loss for what to do. Today I tried again, changing to a new template, and suddenly my blog is working. Success, relief, and it is a sign to pick up the writing pace. For some reason, the fourth time was a charm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A study of the Cynefin Framework

I had hoped to make the KM World & Taxonomy World meetings this year but couldn't manage it due to pressing tasks at work. I did meet up with a couple of friends and managed to meet one or two new people. In the course of conversations over what have we (each) have been up to, I mentioned this study of Cynefin that I have been working on. This is a deep dive into the transition spaces between domains which leads to some interesting conclusions.

Direct link is (as the slideshare frame is not functioning in some browsers)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Look at Software Development in Government

I have been working out this thesis for a year or so and have finally wrestled it into a working draft.  The study examines DOD software development practices centered around the term "requirements" and the different contexts that we use the term in.  I use the Cynefin framework as an organizing tool, which leads to some interesting conclusions.

Direct link is (slideshare frame is not functioning in some browsers)