This website covers 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.

Explicit work (#owork)

Observation TowerThere is more discussion bouncing around the idea of knowledge work and visibility, mostly collected by Jim McGee in Observable work - more on knowledge work visibility (#owork).  The group has decided this is called "observable work." I've used "explicit" in my title simply to reference the long-running discussion of explicit-implicit-tacit in the knowledge management world.

I’m greatly encouraged by the discussion and debate we’ve already triggered. ... Here are some questions and ideas that i think are worth pursuing. Please feel free to join in the discussion and the effort as it unfolds;

  • What can you do to make your own work more readily observable?
  • How might making your work observable be immediately beneficial to you, even if no one else bothered to pay attention?
  • Who else benefits if your work is more observable?
  • How do you benefit from others making their work more observable?
  • What risks and challenges do you need to manage as you make your work more observable?

I like the ideas behind these questions - at least the ideas that I read.  In one vein, I can think purely about my own work and the mechanisms that help me get things done - and remember what I've done.  Here I think heavily on the "personal effectiveness" or "personal knowledge management" ideas that arrive from many different directions.  Some of them area geared towards what do I need to do next, such as the large time management category in bookstores.  David Allen's Getting Things Done is often tossed into this bucket, but I see it as going well beyond time management.  It's really about getting the hidden stuff out of my brain and into some kind of explicit / observable system that I can trust to help me take care of all the projects I have running. 

The next two questions follow vein of this conversation - and one of the big reasons I evangelize on personal knowledge management.  What I do clearly affects those around me.  If I am hidden, disorganized and cluttered, my colleagues and family are affected.  If I am visible, transparent, organized, my work should more clearly fit into that of my colleagues. 

I could imagine a path of discussion that looks at similarity of systems: if our systems for being observable don't work with each other, then it's almost the same as not being observable at all.  However I make my work visible, beyond being helpful for me, it should also be helpful to my colleagues and others around me who I expect to benefit.  Sometimes, unfortunately, this is most obvious when there are desynchronizations: appointments forgotten, key responsibilities with others missed.  For me, this often happens at home.

Because of the work I've been doing recently, I see the need for observable work in project management.  And specifically, around hand-offs between chunks of work ("tasks").  The people on active work need to provide enough visibility, so that the next group knows when to expect their work to start; knows what has happened (or not) in the earlier chunk; and so that they can move as quickly as possible without having to re-do or re-learn anything that had been done before.

[Photo: "Observation Tower" by InAweofGod'sCreation]

Models are are useful until they are not

Process, collaboration, or both