Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding and managing the right simplicity complexity balance 9: information technology enablers 4

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 11, 2012

This is my ninth 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 1-8.)

I stated at the end of Part 5: the continuous quality improvement committee that I would be turning to consider information technology enablers in my next installments, for involving and including the employee community as a whole for an organization in this process. I have written in general terms about the use of interactive online and social media technologies and tools in facilitating this, but I have refrained from delving into specific details there. I have instead, been focusing on social and interpersonal issues that could facilitate or block this participation. And in that regard I note that:

• The state of the art for the technology that would be used here is rapidly evolving and changing and anything I offered as to specific implementation advice would become very outdated, very quickly.
• On top of that, different organizations would be expected to need different technology solutions if they were to implement one that would meet their specific needs – this is not a one size fits all issue.
• But mostly I do this because my experience has shown that it does not matter if you have the right or even the best possible information technology-based tools in place if your policies and practices do not support their use. If the people who hold the information and insight needed to make continuous quality improvement work do not get involved in it, this whole system will fail.

Operationally, and as the greatest challenge here, effectively addressing communications channels and business-wide involvement is all about getting people to step forward and speak out. Exercises in continuous quality improvement fail to be maintained and simply disappear after a single report is developed because there is no continuity or potential for developing that. And with that in mind I stated at the end of Part 8 that in this installment I would 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 with that, I turn back to consider the specific technology in place as well as matters of operational policy and procedures that would be followed in implementing and using it.

• Employees need to be able to post comments and communicate openly and by name, but they have to have the option to post and comment anonymously too. And this might simply mean their having the option to post using a pseudonym, or without source identification at all. But for some organizations this might mean being able to post through an anonymizer server so even the message source’s IP address is hidden from potential review and source discovery.
• A firmly adhered to policy should be in place against outing an anonymous poster, publically identifying them if another employee or a member of management finds themselves in a position to be able to identify a posting source.
• Where legal due diligence requirements, as for example spelled out by regulatory law would dictate that it must be possible to identify a source then they should still be allowed to publically post anonymously to their business community, and any identifying intranet traffic log file information that could out them (e.g. sender’s IP address that would identify computer sent from) should go into a restricted access file. And such identity tracing information should remain secure and locked away unless and until needed for specific policy-based and regulatory control-based reasons, and even there only accessed according to clearly defined policy.

What I am writing here probably sounds like operationally and strategically defined privacy protection overkill, and I point out that is exactly what it is – until an employee finds a serious quality control or risk remediation issue that would potentially prove embarrassing to specific others, and that needs immediate addressing. Some of the recent policy and process practices in large investment and financial industry firms in the United States and globally come to mind as I write this, and I think of recent events at JPMorgan Chase as a working example (see Considering a Cost-Benefits Analysis of Economic Regulatory Rules – 12 and its Part 13 continuation.)

It is likely to the point of certainty that several and even many lower level traders and other employees at JPMorgan Chase were privy to what was going on there in the creation of unacceptable risk in what should have been a risk-limiting process. If continuous quality improvement processes, mechanisms and channels had been available to them to speak up and without fear of retribution for doing so, Jamie Dimon, their CEO would probably still be seen as the banker who always gets things done prudently and wisely as well as profitably. The losses now estimated to total over $7 billion that came from those London-based high risk investments would perhaps never have happened.

And as I have noted before in this series and in this blog:

• The goal here is that a business develop and follow approaches that can help it to identify and productively pursue change so as to keep it effective and competitive – and to do so before a need for change management per se is called for and when operational and related changes would be more a matter of course correction, than having to chart a new course to avoid acutely serious consequences.

I am certain to return to the issues I have been discussing here and throughout this series, in future postings. Meanwhile, 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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