Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding and managing the right simplicity complexity balance 8: information technology enablers 3

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 2, 2012

This is my eighth installment in a series on more effectively structuring and managing a business, so that its overall organization and system of operational processes include the right details and complexities and no more or less (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 262 and scattered following for Parts 1-7.)

In Part 6 and Part 7 I began a discussion of information technology infrastructure as a source of enablers for involving and including the organization’s employee community in general in this, and for both identifying inefficiencies and for developing creative on-site, business process-relevant ways to address them. And I stated at the end of Part 7 that I would turn in this installment “to consider what features and functionalities to include and support in an effective 2.0 version intranet.” But in keeping with my approach to this blog in general, my goal here is not to simply note some current and quickly outdated state of the art for some set of version X.whatever software and/or hardware tools of current interest. My goal is to outline some of the core issues and considerations that would go into deciding which blend of those current options and functionalities to include, and when to update to a still newer, next generation of options. And I begin that by citing some working parameters that would go into developing and maintaining any effective intranet per se, noting that:

• Businesses would for the most part develop and maintain this type of systems resource for its flexible, general-purpose value and utility.
• And they would then seek effective ways to address specific needs and uses that would cost-effectively work for them on their general purpose intranet systems that they have in place.

The three basic areas of concern for any intranet are:

• Providing the resources needed for employees to more effectively do their jobs, and in ways that contribute to the competitive strengths of the business. I have been discussing this point on this blog for essentially as long as I have been posting to the blog, and in that context I cite one of my early, 2009 entries: Connecting an Organization Together, Version 2.0 as a still timely and relevant discussion of some of the core issues here.
• Finding and offering a balance of resources that employees will use – but for their work responsibilities and not simply as personal entertainment. This is an area that I have not adequately addressed even if I have occasionally touched on it. But it is one that I will turn to in an upcoming series on developing and managing productivity tools so as to encourage and promote productivity.
• And doing this in ways that support and even enforce good information security and due diligence policies. I have at least touched upon this area of concern and action a number of times (see for example the security-related postings in my series: Online Store, Online Market Space as posted at Startups and Early Stage Businesses – see postings 35, 37 and 40 of that directory.) I will be returning to this topic area in future postings too.

But for purposes of discussion of the use of intranets as a resource for enabling continuous quality improvement, I have to add at least one more fundamentally important point to that list:

• Finding a balance of openness and availability, while protecting confidentiality so as to protect people who could be seen as whistle blowers, or who might be concerned of possible retribution.

In that it is important to note that both identification of problems and sources of friction that might need remediation, and identification of new and emergent proactive opportunity share one crucially important detail in common:

• Both can be seen as challenging the current order and those who manage and in some way benefit from it.

And issues that come up as potentially fruitful areas for change and increased effectiveness and competitiveness, can hold value for that from any of a wide range of reasons including improved risk remediation position and reduction of legal and regulatory liability.

• Operational inefficiencies, and certainly sustained and ongoing operational inefficiencies always create actualized non-zero increases in operational and overall business risk faced from weakened marketplace position, so at the very least risk remediation and reduction is always important when considering quality improvement in general.
• Legal and regulatory liability is simply the manifestation of risk as would be applied to a business’ need to meet externally defined standards.

My goal in this posting was simply to set the stage for a more detailed discussion of the interplay between risk remediation and continuous quality improvement. And I note that this has to begin with protecting those who would speak out and in doing so challenge the status quo. Employees should be rewarded to identifying problems that can be cost-effectively addressed to create greater organizational strength. They should be rewarded for finding and sharing creative and proactive ways to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities to advance and promote the business. But for any of that to work they need to be protected from potentially negative reactions from other employees, managers and executives included, who might feel themselves challenged by this.

I am going to pick up on this line of reasoning in my next series installment where I will more explicitly address:

• Questions of openness and confidentiality for both employees who would offer insight and for the Continuous Quality Improvement Committee, and
• Mechanisms for meeting the challenge of this balance of needs while identifying high priority and necessary change, and moving forward on it.

And once again as noted several times so far in this series, the goal here is that the business develop and follow approaches that can identify and productively pursue change so as to keep effective and competitive, and to do so before a need for change management per se is needed and when operational and related changes are more a matter of course correction, than having to chart a new course to avoid acutely serious consequences.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.) I have also decided to add this and related/following postings to my HR and Personnel directory as they deal directly with personnel policy issues as well as business operational and strategy issues.

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