Dealing with process and practice around collaboration
I wrote about eating or fishing last week, and about the same time Bill Ives posted Is there Tension in Enterprise Collaboration (referencing Bruce Lewin's detailed thoughts in The Tension in Collaboration). The thing that caught me about this idea of Tension is often between those looking for formal process vs. those that want it loose and human. I think this is the same as the issue I brought up: technology implemented without acknowledging the human behavior is bound to miss something. (I think there is an opportunity to drop in some thinking from David Snowden here, but I can't put my finger on his words.)
Now jump to an article from Ross Mayfield on Leadership and Management of Distributed Collaboration. The post clarifies his comments about leadership and ideas around "chief community officer" roles. But there is a direct connection to the tension topic in the final paragraph that talks about a Mike Gottadefinition of process and practice.
Process is "how work should be done." And Practice is "how work is actually done." When process fails (exceptions), people use practice to fix things. When process doesn't exist, practice fills the void. While people don't realize it when they engage in practice, they actually are tapping into community -- an informal social network within or beyond the enterprise to discover expertise and get things done. The problem is that we haven't had the tools to support good practice.
I really like this sentiment, and there is a direct connection to the thought that process (or technology) changes become problematic when the surrounding practices aren't accounted for. It's not just that we have to acknowledge the practice exists, we need to explicitly decide which practices need to stop or change, and what new practices need to be put in place as a result of the changes.
For those that don't recognize these comments, they are inspired by a Theory of Constraints idea around "the power of technology," but I still think they fit for any kind of change that doesn't acknowledge the practice.
Finally, an article linked by a couple of my Legal KM friends on The End of 'Command Control' Approaches to Knowledge Management? by David Jabbari from the August 2008 Law Practice Today. The thing that jumped at me here is the recognition of the value of collaboration (and the idea of practice) in the traditionally conservative environments of law firms. This has to be a good thing.
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