Matt Ridley on Gut Feelings and the Writings of Gerd Gigerenzer

Merry Christmas!  Here’s the gift of a little science for all you “gut” deciders. Matt Ridley posted this yesterday, pointing to research that suggests that…

more detailed analysis does not necessarily improve a decision, but often makes it worse. He believes, in effect, that less is more: Extra information distracts you from focusing on the few simple aspects of a problem that matter most.

Just don’t call it a hunch, call it a heuristic.

Conditions for “organized emergence”

Emmanuel Gobillot commented on my post on self-organization (here).  I liked his comment so much that I thought it was worth highlighting below:

I have found four conditions which need to be in place for communities to be productive.  I called these

Simplicity (a coherent and simple way to engage),
Narrative (an underpinning story for people to align to),
Tasks (a clear set of tasks which participants can measure against their self image) and
Love (the willingness to commit to making others stronger).

These elements encourage emergence but are better designed. In many ways this explains the need for the famous “benevolent dictators” we have come to identify with emergent systems.

IMO, community-building often focuses on conditions 1&4, especially in knowledge management efforts.  Addressing these topics seems to attract membership, but this tactic only meets some of a community’s needs.  Without the structure and content provided by conditions 2&3, communities are only coherent and useful for those most interested in conversation and networking.

In my experience, very interesting conversations spring up in “Simplicity” and “Love”-centric communities.  However, there are so many stories being told that it is hard to pick a single thread and follow it through to closure.  Without an over-arching “Narrative” that values the “Task” work — something like “Community X’s mission is to create a knowledge sharing network and promote re-use of recommended practices in strategic topics A, B, and C” — the community becomes all talk, no deliverables.

Well, approach “x” worked for me when I worked at company “y”

Well, these magic beans worked for me at AIG...

Well, these "magic beans" worked for me at AIG...

Pawel Brodzinski had a wise corollary for my original post on naysayers (here).  He puts it well…

The distance between rejecting things you don’t believe in and forcing others to do things you believe in is pretty short.

It is great to bring a successful practice to a new situation, but one had better be ready to answer some basic questions:

  1. Why will “approach x” work for this problem or opportunity?
  2. What about our situation may make “approach x” difficult or not applicable?
  3. How will we resolve, mitigate, etc. the issues and risks implied the “What” question above?

Web 2.0 and PMO functions

We’ve just started digging into a large-scale re-architecture of our various methodologies.  As you might imagine, the consequences of our approach include changes to the processes, people, and technologies behind content production and maintenance.  

In particular, leverage social media to author, publish, and distribute much more content than we do today.  We’re pleased with our technology direction.  However, we are concerned about some of the organizational change management challenges ahead — for example, many potential contributors feel like their competitive advantage is what’s in their heads. 

Are there any social media adoption strategies that work well when engaging constituencies that aren’t inclined to share?

WSJ Interview on “The Experience Trap”

FYI, a Wall Street Journal article (“Dangers of Clinging to Solutions of the Past”) based in part on interviews w/ yours truly came out today (link here, page B4 in the paper).  Thanks to Kishore Sengupta of INSEAD for pointing the WSJ my way and to Phred Dvorak of the WSJ for conveying the perils of experience so well and so succinctly. 

As I’ve noted to a couple of colleagues, it is hard to believe that only 250 words of copy came out of two hours of interview time.  Insert your own joke re: my verbosity here…

PM Quote of the Day — Tallulah Bankhead

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

Far be it from me to comment on Tallulah’s mistakes, though she certainly wasn’t known for restraint of tongue and pen!

That said, I love her attitude.  I prefer to learn from other’s mistakes rather than my own.  However, if I’m going to make them, I would just as soon get them out of the way quickly.  At least that way I’ll have a chance to learn from them more quickly.

Innovation Portfolio Planning — Building Capabilities

I’m going back to a Gary Hamel and Lowell Bryan interview (here) on The McKinsey Quarterly site (registration required).  Bryan here focuses on innovation portfolio planning, a topic which PMs should focus on as they look to expand their career horizons:

I like the notion of designing a managing concept or master plan—a master architecture, if you will—for every company. Such a master plan should lay out the big foundational elements to get your organization to work differently…

We use this approach a lot at SAP, though we talk about building capabilities.  These capabilities are the foundation for enabling us to work differently, but aren’t focused too narrowly on a specific outcome.  Rather, these capabilities are focused on supporting a strategic direction — e.g., improve project management maturity vs. improve scope management practices.

SAP seeding innovation via ecosystem collaboration

In the wake of our nice Q2-2008 results (here), I’m more convinced than ever that SAP’s ecosystem collaboration model (SDN here) is a un-heralded differentiator.  It may not be so un-heralded anymore…see this article from John Hagel and John Seely Brown (here).  Two of their lessons learned jumped out:

Ecosystems evolve over time, but the orchestrator plays a key role in seeding and feeding participant initiatives:  Evangelists for collaborative ecosystems often scare off executives with rhetoric suggesting that executives need to give up control and that ecosystems are “self-organizing.”

Too many evangelists preach collaboration “religion” — with all the ideology and doctrine that implies.  Injecting some “spirituality” is the better metaphor.  Executives should be reassured that giving up control doesn’t mean giving up influence and then the approach should be explained and piloted.

On the other hand, sometimes all spirit is taken out of the pitch to appear business-like.  I’m not sure an efficiency argument carries the day either:

Ecosystems are not just about connecting to existing resources—they help provide platforms for distributed innovation and learning:  Many executives tend to view ecosystems in static terms: diverse resources can be accessed and mobilized through ecosystems.

PMOs at Law Firms

I found this post a week or so ago; it promotes the establishment of PMOs in law firms (here).  There had been some discussion of PMOs in professional firms at a recent conference — some medical and architect practices are doing it as well — but this was the first I had seen it while tag surfing.  Apparently my correspondents at PM Hut have a series on PMOs and law firms as well (here).

Finally, the WordPress related post feature pointed me to a post on KM at law firms (here) which I’ll have to check out when I’m back on-line.

KM that works — ASAP for Implementation roadmap updates

As a follow-up to my ASAP and WBS features post (here), I should relay a quick KM win anecdote and give kudos to my team.  The director who leads our methodology and enablement team drove a simple, but effective, effort to incorporate the conversation from our internal social media into our external-facing methodologies.  A new set of accelerators – samples, templates, and white papers – was published based on frequency analysis of the questions and answers from internal discussions hosted on our internal SAP Corporate Portal.   

Furthermore, the team focused on available material — i.e., well-regarded accelerators already published — so we could respond efficiently and effectively.  The results of this initiative are now available in the ASAP for Implementation Roadmap and are embedded in our PMO innovation lifecycle.

  • Sample Conversion and Interface Strategy
  • Configuration Documentation Template/Sample
  • Sample Cutover Plan
  • Business Process Flow Template/Sample
  • Requirements Traceability Matrix Practice Document
  • Business Blueprint Presentation Sample
  • Authorization Definition Template/Sample
  • Knowledge Transfer Template
  • Production Support Strategy and Production Support Plan
  • Data Conversion Methods and Metrics Guideline
  • Centralized Data Management White Paper
  • Sample Test Cases
  • Integration Test Signoff Template
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