This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Focus on the processes, not the tools

I see a lot of projects within business support organizations that look like "implement this tool."  And then the organization is surprised when the project takes much longer than expected and the tool doesn't get used to the extent expected.  

This shouldn't be a surprise. The organization is often focused on the tool, rather than the larger purpose and how the work gets done.

This comes up nicely in an article from Davide "Folletto" Casali, The Three Speeds of Collaboration: Tool Selection and Culture Fit:

Choosing the right tool is a weird thing to do, because it’s at the same time the most important choice and the least important choice you can do. It’s a paradox because without a tool you can’t collaborate – and mind that: a tool isn’t necessarily a software tool – but at the same time if you have clear what you are trying to do you might find yourself choosing something that isn’t even software, or isn’t even specific for collaboration.

The article focuses on collaboration tools, but remove the collaboration concepts and apply your favorite job that software should do. The idea still make sense.  The tools have to fit with the way the organization works - both the formal and informal processes for getting things done.  Has the tool been constructed with assumptions that fit with the way things are done in your organization?

I still go back to the Theory of Constraints "questions for technology" related to this conversation. ("Technology" doesn't just mean software, it could be anything new and different - like putting bigger wheels on a mountain bike.)  The questions go along the lines of this:

  1. What is the power of the new technology? 
    What's the big idea? Why is it so great? But also, where is it expected to fit? Where doesn't it fit? Related to the Casali article, what are the assumptions behind the technology?
  2. What current limitation or barrier (that exists today) does the new technology eliminate or vastly reduce? 
    This is a classic TOC phrase, but the idea: What problem does it solve? How would the value proposition of the organization change if that problem were to go away?
  3. What policies, norms and behavior patterns are used today to bypass the limitation?
    The limitation is there.  What do we do because of it? What policies, practices, structures are in place because of the limitation?   
  4. What policies, norms and behavior patterns should be used once the new technology is in place?
    Using new technology in the "old way" will likely not unlock the full value of the technology. If the limitation goes away, wouldn't many of the behaviors and policies no longer apply?  Do we still need to do monthly financial close if we have real-time data in our financial systems?
  5. In view of the above, what changes/additions to the new technology should be introduced?
    I love this question. Now that we understand the situation into which this the technology is applied, what must be added/changed/removed to make it even better? This could be core in the technology, or it could be something about how it is applied to the problem at hand.
  6. How to cause the change?
    How to fit the new technology into the overall organization?

The Questions for Technology are nicely discussed by Eli Schragenheim in this video conversation with Christian Hohmann from last year.  Schragenheim was involved in the original development of the questions for technology in the book Necessary but not Sufficient (my latest review).

Swimming in a lake, or rowing down the river

Innovation Thinking Methods