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Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

Culture: Old and New Assumptions

January 10, 2011 3 comments

Lately, I’ve been trying to get a bead on culture and the effect culture has on Project/Technology ROI and Implementation Cost.  The research I have uncovered suggests something very striking.  What I mean is that most, if not all, of the Culture Assessment tools I examined have a specific view point.  That viewpoint is simple:  That if you interview people with a certain list of questions, you can come to find the culture of your organization. The results are  graphs, charts, and definitions.  At the time I was examining these products, I had no problem with them.  As time went on, I came to realize that there might be something missing.

On the surface, these methodologies seem like magic.  I could see why they sold.  But as I thought about it and reflected on my experience in corporate consulting, I came to a  conclusion…

Most of the methodologies out there right now really don’t take the whole of their organization into consideration.  They just think they do.

Interestingly enough, they claim to give the whole picture of the culture of the organization supported by their results, but I don’t believe they have been very successful up to this point .  In my opinion, this is what the current Organizational Assessments promise to show you:


 

Business As Usual

Current Presiding Cultural Viewpoint

Here’s the kicker: This view commonly says there is ONE culture that describes 100% of the organization.  That the whole of the organization has the same culture.  I’m not sure that this is an accurate depiction of what is really going on in reality.

My position on why this occurs? Most culture assessments methodologies come to this conclusion is because of four main factors:

  1. Leadership is most often interviewed in a culture assessment which creates a bias.
  2. There is no cross-pollination of information before the survey results are tallied.
  3. Employees (and people in general) are trained and conditioned to assume culture is a top-down mandate.
  4. The current dominant POV is that culture is bound by the borders of the organization.

Well, I have news…Good news for some and maybe not for others.

Leadership, while it has influence, does not a culture make.

You see, there is another reason for organizational strife, bad ROI, silos, and poor project management in general.  It is not just competition for scare organizational resources. It is also the competition between various, border-less, and unconstrained cultures vying for survival and influence.  Cultures do not stay within departments (or even organizations)! Assessing only leadership’s perception of culture does not give a clear picture of how software, process, or procedure should be implemented.  Each culture has its own way of integrating new information in the form of technological change and a more successful implementation team will understand and put this into practice.

Mama mia!  How ever will we sort through this mess?

A More Realistic Cultural Viewpoint

What we really have in an organization are nested cultural nodes, or simply “Pocket Cultures“, which are all interacting in a very complex way.  Through this interaction, the true organizational culture emerges.  Some Pocket Cultures, like personalities, can be dominant in the organization.  This does not mean the dominant culture is the correct one.  It is just the one that uses strategic means to keep its position as dominant.

So, what does all this mean?

  • Current organizational assessment tools are most likely ill-equipped to deal with a reality which takes this complex cultural interplay into consideration.
  • Executives can expect a higher adoption rate and ROI if they understand the concept of Pocket Cultures.
  • Implementation Project Managers should lead with an assessment of Pocket Cultures to find the best entry-point into the organization, giving them a much higher success rate.

Well, that’s my rant.  I can see I have a lot of work to do on this idea.  I’ll bring some of the big brains I know together to mull this over.  Firstly, I will will be working on developing an assessment which takes pocket cultures into consideration.  Everything after that is a hazy future-fog, but I bet you that it is fun out there!

For more on Organizational Types, see: Organizational Types or Wikipedia.

My Performance Review 2010 and Some Shout-Outs

December 29, 2010 2 comments

It has been almost a year since my last post.  I can only say that I had a few reasons for this:

  1. I had nothing to write about.
  2. I wanted to work on listening/reading over telling everyone my POV.
  3. Twitter is a VERY seductive mistress for someone with writer’s block…Much to easy to send out a link with short comments over writing something of substance.

Excuses, excuses…

So, I am happy to report that I survived my first year as an independent consultant.  It has been a very interesting experience that I recommend for anyone who needs a jolt back to life.  When I first started, I had some really bad habits that I needed to break.  Most notably:  Communicating in a way that people understand.  The most interesting difference for me was that there is no feedback net.  I have always loved getting feedback from my peers and managers to improve my performance.  As an independent, I found none of that and I felt myself go into a stall.  I actually got hungry for someone to tell me how to improve myself.  It is a very different experience to judged solely by the market and not having someone to say:

“Michael you need to be more/less ________.”

I came to the conclusion that I am going to have to give MYSELF a year-end review.  I have been through this process many times and never really liked the incomplete criteria by which I was judged.  In this regard, I researched some personality traits and skill sets that I would like to include in my year end assessment. Maybe in the future some of these may be included in the development profile of a 21st Century contributor.  This is in no way complete, but I would like to get it out there…Without further ado, I give you my annual performance and development review:

For the fun of it.

If you know me and disagree with any of the information above, let me know!  I would love to hear from you and it would also scratch my itch for feedback.

Thanks so much to Traits of Human Consciousness for providing an exhaustive list from which to select.

Finally, some shout-outs to the people who have played a role in my life over the last year (In no particular order…):

  • Jim Davis for his incredibly open and honest communications with me.  May your search for truth, love, and beauty be fruitful.
  • Monica Anderson for showing me an entirely different perspective on how things really work in this reality. May our friendship continue and your ideas embraced.
  • Scott Blumin for giving me a chance when no one else did.  You are a sage among men and I am honored to know you.  You have my respect and allegiance in everything we do.
  • Lang Davison for listening to my crazy rants and helping me see the possibility of a divine construction in the workplace. May all of your endeavors be blessed and love be with you everywhere you go.
  • Michael Massey for showing me that the Buddha is smiling for a reason.  May the cosmic joke tickle you pink and let all those in your presence be consumed by the glorious laughter you have given me.
  • David Foox for being a brother in dark times.  May you receive as much joy from creation as you have given me in allowing me to participate in your wonderful journey.
  • Bruce Kunkel for always confirming my beliefs with love, appreciation, and excitement.  You, my friend, live the life of a true and uncompromising artist.  May good fortune come to you and love be your guide.
  • Jason Salzetti for setting me free. If I didn’t “get it” before, I am getting it now.
  • Bernd Nernberger for participating in and promoting the crazy stuff we work on at Syntience. May your new year be filled with wonder and discovery!
  • Geoff Brown for being there at the most unexpected times.  May all of your plans come to fruition.
  • Michael Marlaire for believing in me and never forgetting to send me my NASA invites and updates.  I wish you health and happiness and I appreciate the joy you bring into every situation.
  • Michael Kenny for teaching me valuable lessons about how the world works.  You have touched my life in ways that you could not imagine.  I wish you and your family the best in the coming year.

If you are not listed here, apologies!  I will be sure to tell you how special you have made my year.

Happy New Year!!!!

A.I. and The Prime Directive

November 25, 2009 5 comments

Real Geeks know The Prime Directive.

For those of you who don’t know it, the The Prime Directive is General Order #1 for space exploration in the T.V. series, “Star Trek”.  Briefly put, it is a rule which states that if the crew of an exploring spacecraft encounters a civilization which is “pre-warp” (Or they have not developed interstellar space travel.), that civilization is off limits for contact.  This doctrine has created many a story told in the Star Trek Universe.

UFP

"No starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.” - General Order 1, Starfleet Command General Orders and Regulations

There is wisdom to The Prime Directive which contains a message about observation.  When I think of observation in the context of The Prime Directive, I ask myself ,  “Why wouldn’t it be possible to apply a rule of observation to the problem of safe Artificial Intelligence?”.  What I mean is that one could speculate that when the time actually comes, we could apply this wisdom of observation to our own creations: To our sentient and self-aware computers.

This could be a type of observation which does not seek confirmation, but only seeks that which solves a problem usefully.  This would remove a  problem associated with the “experimenter’s observation” of  testing a hypothesis to prove that hypothesis true.  Specifically, we avoid the risk of the observer’s bias toward a specific result (which happens a lot in the cross-pollination space of reductionist science and natural systems).

The Productive Interface

As human thoughts and ideas are useful in the domain of humans, so may we find useful the thoughts and ideas of our Artificial Intelligences, a Productive Interface if you will.  Perhaps through the rules of this Productive Interface they need never know they are being observed by their creators.  This Interface should take actual problems to be solved, present them to the group being observed as their environment and see if they can solve the problem usefully and creatively, or in ways their human creators had not conceived.   These situations could be real world problems solved in the electronic domain.  Much like the Prime Directive, the only rule to this domain states:

“No human may directly interfere with the development of any artificial life or society by making themselves known to that being or society.”

By cutting off “standard” communication we may in fact save ourselves from ever having to deal with friendly or unfriendly computers.  Perhaps we can provide them with a limitless loop of problems to solve which keeps them interested in themselves and their surroundings.  That’s all they would need is the need and desire to learn (@pandemonica) and the goal of improving themselves.  Maybe if we considered specific rules for communicating with our A.I., protocol droids that much feasible that much faster.