Years ago, I tried to design a taxonomy for customised versions of policy documentation for a large international organisation. I concluded that it was necessary to inherit from the following hierarchies to decide appropriate content:
- Geographical locational hierarchy(ies) e.g. defines the national legal framework
- Organisational structure(s) e.g. different departmental cultures
- Functional role(s) e.g. information only appropriate to some roles.
(No, I was never convinced that this one was a hierarchy either.)
The point of such policy documents is to impose an appropriate culture from above. It is a hierarchical control mechanism. Like many, I have lost faith in hierarchy.
Outside ‘an organisation’, in networked, self-organisied teams, co-operating to achieve shared goals, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘functions’ might merge into variable levels of expertise in a variety of areas of interest. In the short-term, this is the ‘Agile’ transition of the ‘generalising specialist’. In the longer term, might it signal a likely return to learning by a period of apprenticeship to a master craftsman? This has worrying implications for social mobility.
As we become increasingly networked, I believed that geography would also become less important but recently I’ve found myself joining and taking part in location-based discussion groups. Perhaps the neighbourhood urge is stronger than I thought. Again, Agile’s co-location philosophy looks a more human solution.
This reminds me of my decision to give up paper and my subsequent discovery that screens were not big enough to allow me to spatially organise my chunks of information or to find information by knowing its approximate physical location in 3-D space.
Are we an appropriate fit for the infinite, multi-dimensional virtual world we’re building?