There are a couple of thoughts related to the cooking theme that have visited me lately .... a result of having to nurse an injured foot and so watching too much TV perhaps?
Anyway, has the efficiency of TV chefs ever amazed you and got you thinking about process efficiency and improvement? There is no doubt that the presenters manage to prepare any recipe in a flash and get a lot done in the kitchen in their allotted time .... certainly more than any home-cook could expect to achieve.
On closer inspection however, there are a few, somewhat obvious tricks that the TV shows use and I'm not just referring to the classic line: "Here's one I prepared earlier!" No, I found two main things that contributed to their speed and efficiency in whipping up lavish dishes in a few minutes: 1. All the ingredients were readily at hand 2. All bowls and utensils were out and ready to whip, chop, blend, dice ..... whatever was needed!
Even where there were no edits and the show was presented (pretty much) in real-time, it is the fact that everything is just there, right at their finger tips, that allows for massive productivity.
So the lesson I take away from this is that some activities/ processes are slow not because of anything intrinsically to do with the task itself. It is slow because of the logistics that needs to support the performance of the task. This will be nothing new to those familiar with managing or coordinating manufacturing processes where the supply chain can naturally become a key, limiting aspect of production .... but those of us who are knowledge workers often forget resource and other dependencies need to be managed before a particular activity can be performed efficiently.
Process definition that does not take into account the supporting tasks (take out the ingredients, assemble and plug in the blender, etc.) will not be fully representative of what has to be done ..... and therefore may miss opportunities for improvement. Having spent a large part of the weekend looking for a presentation that I had done a few years ago, I can attest to the time wasted in simply gathering the elements needed to do/make/cook-up something new.
In their book entitled "IT Savvy" (see all new experimental Amazon sidebar below) Peter Weill and Jeanne Ross have done something that does us all a favour. The subtitle "What Top Executives Must Know to Go From Pain to Gain," is brilliant positioning for which we should all be grateful.
Most experienced practitioners know that the problems enterprises have in delivering new business capabilities cannot ALL come from IT's lousy project execution. Some part of the
blame for the low rate of project success must come from the ever urgent demands
of the customer, who in the name of "business imperative" wreak havoc
with any attempt to create a coherent enterprise architecture.
It should come as no surprise then that the authors penned an earlier book entitled
"Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for
Business Execution" - which oddly does NOT get referenced in the "IT Savvy"
book. Could it be that they do not want to show where they are taking
the executives? Certainly recrafting enterprise architecture as an
"Operating Model" and aiming to establish a "Digitized Platform" for
the business attempts to soften IT jargon.
Maybe using more business acceptable terminology is a lesson we can
all learn. In the meantime, all power to any attempt at educating
executives on how to make their IT more of a strategic asset.
The annual New York Time's feature covering "The Year in Ideas" an interesting read and highly recommended.
But there was an entry on the success of Massively Collaborative Mathematics that particularly impressed me ... and is relevant to the wider goals of this site. This entry describes how, as an experiment in collaboration, a mathematician challenged the readers of his blog to tackle an intractable mathematical problem .... which they amazingly went on to solve!!!!
Now, that is food for thought. If we can solve something like a mathematical problem maybe this whole "wisdom of the crowd" is not so far fetched. Maybe in future the expression "group-think" will start to lose it negative connotations?
Thinking how one might use this technique to solve enterprise management issues I came up with the following:
First there has to be the availability of the individual "brains". The mathematician concerned (Timothy Gower, a Cambridge mathematician and Fields medalist) had a very select following on his blog and so had the necessary "processing-units" available.
Second, not all problems can be expected to be suited to massively collaborative techniques. Gower's thesis was that mathematical problem-solving was largely a process of elimination and so many brains could reduce the possible outcomes until the final solution was reached. Much like computer architectures, not all types of computations are suited to parallel processing so we have to have a suitable problem.
Next, and most importantly, you have to have some coordinating body to keep track of the parallel results from all the different processes and to essentially direct/initiate the next set of processes. This of course sounds a lot like "central control" which some people might think is an anethama to collaborative techniques. But I see no contradiction here, and think this is a great example of the facilitative management that is essential to get the coherence needed in all the massive-parallelism that is taking place. So the challenge is to have just enough control to ensure the collaboration is coordinated and directed to the problem at hand.
This is not far off all the experimentation some businesses are doing with Social Media - both internally and through better engagement with their customer-base. Other examples of successful collaboration of indepenent groups is of course all those open-source initiatives that are around.
So presuming we can find the necessary processing-units through a site like this, and we can achieve the facilitative management approach working, the question that remains is: What activites geared to Enterprise Coherence could be suseptible to this approach?
I don't wish to plug a multinational .... especially not for free. But every now and then the "Big Boys" do something that is really quite impressive.
So I know this shows me to be a geek at heart, but the new Intel TV ad is very clever and says something about innovation and the respect it deserves. Yet our society tends to find it easier to venerate those "beautiful people" in sports, drama, music, etc. with very little recognition for the less public, intellectual pursuits. I guess the ad says something about these other less glamorous endeavours which, in many ways, are more valuable to society.
I first saw the new Intel TV ad while watching the Australian Idol final ..... making the tag line "our rock stars aren't like your rock stars" even more apt. If you have not seen it already, it’s worth taking a look at the ad on YouTube.
There is something of the Web 2.0 enabled "new media" revolution in the underlying philosophy of the Alinement Network. After all, merely to attempt to create an online magazine site indicates that (I at least think) there is a gap left by the mainstream business, management and technology publications.
The nature of that gap comes down to who is in control of the distribution channels. In newspapers and magazines the business model is to attract advertisers who pay for the privelege of getting their message in front of their key market. So the model requires publishers to do something along these lines:
+ Find a niche market that is not already serviced + Gather some information/ content relevant to them + Create a product that is appealing + Develop a distribution channel + Get vendors and consultants to pay for advertising
space (sometime disguised as content)
While I have no problem with the model above or the profit motive that is at its heart, I can see that there are some unpleasant and most likely unintended consequences of the model.
Firstly, it is about dividing up the market, categorizing readers into "types" and then feeding them information (probably just content actually - see the distinction) only relevant to that type. The result of these targetted publications is that they create siloed-thinking at the industry level, where business and technology roles are separated; managers and specialists isolated. Which all goes to make running the "whole" that much more difficult to keep together.
Secondly, the content is written by third-parties who at best had some past experiences in the industry they are writing about. Often the authors are generalists. They may be journalists or simply people who can write well, and their whole experience of the industry (or niche) they are writing about is based upon the interactions they have with the very vendors and consultants who have a barrow to push.
Finally, when the viability of the model is based upon the advertising revenue it is simply impossible to "tell it like it is" even if the writers wanted to do so. The publishers and/or editors are too scared to rock the financial boat because they realize their advertisers will not appreciate having their ads juxtaposed by unfriendly articles discussing implementation problems.
The result of the above three points (and there may be more you can think off) is that we get an extremely narrow and stilted viewpoint from our industry press. There are taboo topics, there are "holy-cows" that are exempt from any critisism and to compensate there are is an abundance of industry jargon and buzz-words that have more to do with marketing hype than any real advances in management thinking. Sometimes the profit motive can have a corrupting effect on things.
Having said all that I would love to get some return from the effort it has taken, and will continue to take, to establish the Alinement Network. Advertising is of course one of the first things that comes to mind as a revenue stream and so there is an ethical trap that is very easy to fall into. At this stage I am hopeful that a balance can be struck and in the end it is a tension between editorial integrity and business outcomes.
The web presents online publications with a few opportunities to tackle this ethical challenge. In summary, and worthy of more discussion (with you the reader) I can see the following opportunities to escape the trap that the profit motive sets for all publishers:
+ The web is a cheap way of publishing so without the need for a lot of infrastructure the costs can be contained + This is particularly true when one utilizes the Web 2.0's User Provided Content model making the wage bill shrink down to just the core editorial staff + User content also means that there is less of an ability to muzzle the press with the "real story" likely to emerge even if the publisher would prefer it not to + Then there are web-ads which are conveniently dumb on the actual content of the article and only triggered by keywords - whether or not they receive positive treatment.
So there is some hope of a new form of media that comes with the Web 2.0 model which does not destroy financial incentive but rather adapts it so that the business model is targetting the readers (users) rather than the
It is an important power-shift which make possible new business models, creates new opportunities and calls for different skillsets - maybe making knowledge and experience a valuable commodity once again.
It would be good to hear your thoughts on this subject .....