Re: [unrev-II] Is "bootstrapping" part of the problem?

From: Garold L. Johnson (
Date: Mon Dec 25 2000 - 09:15:35 PST

  • Next message: Garold L. Johnson: "RE: [unrev-II] Refactoring and information annealing"

    Upon further reflection on the danger that global corporations will flock to
    use our KM tools for diabolical purposes, I have come to that conclusion
    that there is absolutely no danger of this happening. NONE WHATSOEVER!
    Look at the history of people who have tried to get large institutions to
    adopt better methods, to share information rather than hoard it, to use
    tools instead of meetings – you name the innovation in the direction of
    collaboration and information sharing.

    None of these efforts have yet succeeded. Never mind that the ideas might
    have saved them. Never mind that Augment/NLS was better 30 years ago that
    the tools we have today. Never mind how much Tom Peters cries out for groups
    to achieve excellence. Deming had to go to Japan to get an audience, and
    they were desperate. Better ways to develop software are touted by great
    minds who have shown that there are better ways and they are largely
    ignored. The fads change, but the underlying fundamental hierarchical,
    non-sharing structure remains.

    We can’t figure out how to get these large organizations to adopt the tools
    and procedures we know would improve their operation when we beat their
    doors down, grab them by the throat, and pound their heads on the table.
    There is absolutely no danger that these same people will spontaneously
    adopt a true KM toolset and the collaborative, information sharing world
    view that is needed to make such a tool effective and do anything at all
    with it.

    Based on our actual history, there is almost no likelihood that we can
    convince them to try such tools, much less use them to change their group
    behavior. No matter how we evangelize, no matter how much we demonstrate
    that there are better ways, we don’t make a dent.

    Since we can’t get them to adopt our recommendations when we go crazy trying
    to get them to do so, I don’t believe that there is any risk at all that
    they will adopt the tools and the behavioral changes required to use them

    I believe that the willingness to collaborate and share information without
    a hierarchy and face-to-face meetings may well be an evolutionary step
    forward. We will not convince any who do not already understand because this
    is a non-rational phenomenon. The beliefs and behaviors are not based on
    reasoned decisions and are not about to be changed by reason.

    As with all pervious paradigm shifts, the old ways will be displaced by the
    new ones, and the full shift will require that those in power under the old
    paradigm die off or leave positions of power.

    Therefore, we need to learn how to build effective organizations based
    around knowledge and collaboration, we need to start and grow the
    organizations, and we need to develop the tools to support the work that
    those organizations will do. In short, we need to learn to bootstrap
    ourselves and our tools.

    Doug is exactly right -- except that any expectation that the existing
    structure will transform itself leads to a dead end.

    The future lies with those who are willing to change developing to tools and
    the organizations to do so. A major part of that is understanding what is
    wrong with the way organizations currently work, and why they are that way
    in spit of any and all efforts to change them.

    William L. Livingston founded an organization that he calls StateWave. He
    and his colleagues have horror stories spanning more than 50 years of
    organization that persist in behavior that eventually destroys them, often
    knowing that it *is* self destructive.
    The website doesn’t appear to exist any longer, but Lionell K. Griffith at has many of the papers from the original
    There is and overview at . A
    Google search turned ups more information which I will follow up on later.

    The short story of all of this is that even with the study that these people
    put into why organizations are this way, they were unable to formulate any
    approach whereby an organization could be changed in a controlled way. There
    are ways to impact an organization, but no way that they were able to
    discover that was workable with a high enough probability to mention. They
    did develop, they believe, ways of testing a client environment to determine
    whether the organization was capable of solving the socio-technical problem
    that it was tackling and to decline to do business with any organization
    that didn’t have an chance.

    They concluded that “skunk works” operations were the only structures that
    succeed. Tom Peters calls them “pockets of excellence”. They can exist
    almost anywhere, and are uniformly doomed when management begins to pay
    enough attention to them to batter down the isolation that allowed the group
    to succeed and to impose proper organizational discipline on the mavericks.

    Livingston’s major point seems unassailable – when you find a system that
    produces the same results regardless of any variables of resources,
    location, people, ability, culture, or the problem addressed the only
    explanation is that there is a control system in operation. That is exactly
    what a control system does.

    Livingston is convinced that this can only be due to genetic hard wiring.
    The more that I observe, the more convinced I am that he is correct.

    We need to:
    * understand the nature of that biological drive,
    * understand why we are (at least partially) free of it,
    * determine how best to identify and rid ourselves of any destructive
    vestiges of it
    * understand what there is of survival value in the old paradigm so
    that we don’t throw out the value there – it did evolve to meet certain
    needs after all, and not all of those needs have disappeared.
    * Learn to bootstrap organizations and tools base on the new
    * Build and evolve tools and organizations
    * Solve problems better than those around us
    * Eventually displace the old order.

    We do not need to:
    * Worry that the old order will adopt our ways and use them in any way
    * Try to get the old order to transform itself into the new order

    Now can we get this thing defined and built!


    Garold (Gary) L. Johnson

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