by: Sigurd Rinde

Good thing we humans are flexible, able as we are to handle all kinds of tasks with sometimes far too little training.


I can often get a lamp to work again, I can paint a door or even grease the hinges without any training. In my early days of summer jobs I worked in a brewery (no training beyond drinking a few), I took apart diesel engines on a ship mid ocean (heavily supervised) and did stints as a substitute teacher (fresh out of pupil training).

I was useful at best, but at least I filled some vacant positions making some manager look good on paper.

This ability to adjust allows organisations to function even if the natural dynamics have long been killed off by artificial hierarchies, when skilled experts have been promoted beyond their ability into management positions or when a proper framework for work flows in reality does not exist.

If organisations had parts like engines and you promoted the exhaust manifold to be a gearbox the result would not be very successful. Luckily the human flywheel can do stints as spark-plug without huge repercussions, but overall effectiveness would be far from excellent.

It allows another disastrous practice to go on without question, a practice that involves IT most of the time:

Focus on individual efficiency instead of organisational effectiveness.

Word processors, spreadsheets, email clients, personal productivity tools of all stripes, all talk about "make better use of data", "simpler search", "better UIs", "faster query times" and rigid rules and automation so one might even skip training altogether. Even the so called "collaboration" stuff is fully focused in the same direction; to allow you to do your job better and handle information better - not much of a proper process framework to be found there either. 

Mostly "support" tools are for the individuals, and they do not run anything. MS Project, spreadsheets and whatnot - like toy cars. Nice to look at, good for dreaming and planning but gets you nowhere.
(Hat tip to Adrian for the toy car analogy)







(Spreadsheet functionality)

And don't get me started on "Dashboards", "Data mining", "Business intelligence" and such - all about after-the-fact efforts to get some control over something that's gone awry already - no bearing on real interaction and real-time correct use of parts and resources. Nothing to do with frameworks that, more like sheep dogs running around barking at sheep astray.







 (IT Dashboard screen shot, manager at left)

Sure the individual must be efficient, nothing wrong with that. But unless the whole, how the parts work together, what parts are where, direct and dynamic connection between the world and the whole engine and all that which makes the whole a lot more than the sum of the parts - then the individual efficiency has very little impact.

If the interoperability of the parts in the whole is less than good it will kill off the individual efficiency fast and certainly make some parts counter each other out and leave the whole far from what it could have been. If it's good, now then we're talking, then no competitor can beat you.

That leaves the question why do IT vendors focus on individual efficiency while leaving organisational effectiveness untouched. Old habits I suspect.

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