Rick Dove, Paradigm Shift International, www.parshift.com,
|Thinking is hard stuff and we all
like to avoid it, especially if we believe we already
know what's needed and don't need to think any further.
I'm not talking about that fun spontaneous thinking we
all get off on - where flashes of inspiration keep coming
because we're in the mood and on a roll. I'm talking
about that problem we're faced with that lives in a space
we are not sufficiently familiar with. We know if we try
to search that dark place it's going to hurt the head.
This kind of thinking is hard work. The typical
motivation when faced with such a task is to get it over
with asap. That's one reason we're satisfied with cheap
solutions - those that look good at the high planning
level but never deliver on the promise. Cheap solutions
loose it when the details added later by others lack
coherence and synergy.
Tools can help a lot here, especially tools that move the smoky abstract things into the tangible world where we can see what the concepts really are and how they fit with everything else. Good tools will transform a cheap solution into a robust solution.
In recent essays we've been exploring an issue-focused, principle-based business practice design methodology - and applied it to the design of a core-competency knowledge management practice. We introduced a thinking tool called a closure matrix last month (Mar 98) - and used it to explore how well our vaguely-described design actually addressed the previously determined requirements issues. The purpose of the tool is to ensure that the final design actually addresses real issues, and isn't simply an implementation of faddish notions or personal management philosophies. Design elements we felt were important all of a sudden declared how that importance would be realized and how important it was - and the process of applying the tool often altered the vague activity descriptions we had previously accepted.
So much for the issue-focused part. Now we will employ the same tool to refine the principle-based part of the design. There are ten specific principles the methodology employs to make the design robust in a constantly changing environment - very important where knowledge is involved.
Please refer to last month's Closure Matrix figure as it will clarify the remaining discussion about one of the seven activities and how the ten principles are employed.
We will look at the activity called Analyze Local Case for Principles. Employing the tool made me think much deeper about how the activity would actually function and what parts of it would keep it flexible. If you've been following this series you will recall that we are training a broad existing employee group, as well as new hires, on the core competencies exercised by a few - and also renewing and evolving that competency in the process. These workshop training groups first analyze an existing process that exhibits this competency in its operational design, then they extract the essence of the underlying design that accounts for its excellence, and later they apply what they have learned to the design of a new process in need of similar characteristics.
The analysis activity is done in parallel by multiple workshop sub-groups, and spans many weeks. It produces the raw material for the subsequent Metaphor Model Packaging activity, and also trains the workshop group on the use of tools, concepts, and principles needed in their subsequent business practice design activity. It is a cornerstone among the seven activities in our knowledge management practice. The accompanying table below shows the sequence for this activity as a series of full group meetings and sub-group analysis periods.
Using our closure matrix tool, we look individually at each of the nine issues it addresses, and determine which of the ten principles plays a key role in satisfying the issue. Remember, the issues are all change-proficiency oriented and the principles are all change enabling design concepts - so there should be a good correlation here.
We'll take the issues in order as they appear in the closure matrix, and focus first on capturing hidden tacit core-competency knowledge. Employing the peer-peer interaction principle we encourage the sub-groups to independently question and probe the people involved in designing or operating the system under analysis without restricting this to a full group discussion and Q&A activity. Importantly, deferred commitment is at work by first examining issues and activities before identifying the underlying principles that are important - which tends to broaden the perspective while focusing it on priorities at the same time. Unit redundancy is employed by purposely having multiple sub-groups go after the same analysis independently so that if one gets in a hole another will surly succeed. By the same token, we let these sub-groups exercise a high degree of self-organization as to how they will schedule their analysis activity, how they will interpret the principles, what libraried cases they will study for guidance, and how they will arrive at a self-contained unit conclusion - requiring no dependence on other sub-groups. Of course their conclusion is going to be plug compatible with the full group because the analysis structure is a given: the metaphor model is the template. This independent work by multiple groups will develop a broader and deeper set of alternative views, guard against single-view dogma, and generally make progress even if some of the people in the
|group are confused and lost.
Finally, evolving standards will modify our
understandings of the principles and their usage, and the
change issue/value focus to keep up with new learnings
In general that was a lot of principles employed in satisfying that first issue. We are only looking for the important applications of principles here - the ones that would compromise our result if they were removed as design elements. It turns out that this first issue is the principle focus of the activity we are looking at - so the strong employment of many principles is natural.
Next in line is the improving knowledge accuracy issue. Redundant sub-groups and even duplicate analyses by whole groups refines the knowledge. Self organization of the sub-groups and allowing direct peer-peer interaction between teams and sources increases the likelihood that some teams will uncover knowledge overlooked by others who approach the process differently. As before, deferring the close look at principles focuses the priorities; and allowing direct team/source interaction broadens the total perspective.
Cheap solutions lose it when details added later lack coherence and synergy
As to the improving
knowledge effectiveness issue: Chartering each
sub-group as a self-contained unit means that they
must build a complete stand-alone analysis, and not split
up the effort with another - meaning they will learn a
full system with all its checks and balances and not
simply a few odds and ends about something that appears
Sequence of: "Analyze Local Case For
©1998 RKDove - Attributed Copies Permitted
Essay #040 - Originally Published 4/98 in Automotive Manufacturing & Production, Gardner Publications