Tag Archives: Euan Semple

Managing a Post-Hierarchical World

[ This post is a version of my reply on LinkedIn to a post by Euan Semple,
‘A Plague of Managers’ (upon your WikiHouses?).

See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/plague-managers-euan-semple ]

There’s an interview with Jimmy Wales of WikiP in CMI’s ‘Professional Manager’, Winter 2016. He says a manager has five functions: planning, organisation, co-ordinating, commanding and controlling. Wales would like to change the last two functions to: inspiring and coaching.

The ‘Agile movement’ is pushing the remaining three functions towards fluid planning and self-organised, networked teams rather than hierarchical power-structures. That suggests to me that the only function left is picking sufficiently inspirational strategies to keep the attention of your teams and to meet their coaching needs. It seems an environment in which teams should be appointing their managers.

If I was a manager, with no remaining knowledge of ‘how things are done now’ myself, I’d be fighting against all this modern nonsense and trying to maintain the status quo; lashing myself in position at the top of a tree made of single-points of failure for information flow, so that I could cut off any branches as threats emerged.

Ah… I see!


Inside the Virtual Box

After its Autumn maintenance shutdown, the Large Idea Collider is back up to operating temperature. I’ve run a few simple tests in the shower this morning (the cooling system?)

A link provided by video provocateur http://emmapuente.com/ showed a dancer interacting with a digital grid, projected onto an invisible net box in which she performed. It reminded me of a band called ‘Mad Action’, that I saw in about 2003. They were a 2-piece who performed inside a 3-sided white box onto which were projected the shadows of 2 other virtual musicians, probably also them, who were also playing on a pre-recorded backing track. Their ‘real world shadows’ were also cast onto the sheet. The audience experience was a combination of reality and projection from a virtual world and different from those trapped inside the boxes, arguably more ‘real’.

For quite a while, I’ve been using the Internet slang IRL (In Real Life) fairly sarcastically, as a large proportion of my life seems to take part in this semi-virtual domain. Obviously, I’m not alone here, @euan regularly talks about his networked life, http://euansemple.com/theobvious/.

As already reported, the time-shifted video of Hal Abelson’s (http://codequarterly.com/2011/hal-abelson/) 6.001 course at MIT re-enforced my belief that process (and therefore software) exists outside of our gravitational field. It is a world in which, he argues, we can do anything we can imagine. He must lack imagination but we can do ALMOST anything.

The question then, is: where is the Human Computer Interface now? Forget that question! Half of the computational machinery I use is virtual too. Where is the boundary between reality and our (almost) wildest dreams?

Here’s a woman dancing in a virtual box. Or is it the other way around?

p.s. Is this what famous mathematicianĀ Charles Dodgson was grasping for, in his philosophical book about mirrors? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Carroll

Corporate Blanding

This post was triggered (again) by @Euan writing part of a long-overdue rant I’ve been planning. OK, I may once have written a toned-down version of what I wanted to say on an internal corporate web-site on the re-launch of ‘our’ Sharepoint Intranet portal but there were all kinds of sitting-on-hands and biting-of-tongue contortions going on as I typed. Because that’s what ‘corporates’ do to people with non-compliant ideas.

My blog then was called ‘Outside the Box’. The title was intended to hint at both lateral thinking and that I was not writing as a part in the IT machinery; no longer running ‘boxen’ (servers) as a cog in the corporate infrastructure. I’d gone to work in the ‘skunk-works’ and I intended to make a tiny bit of a stink occasionally to try to persuade IT to do things better, because they were making quite a mess of things. Only good changes are good. There’s “Can do” attitude and there’s “Shouldn’t do” knob-headery.

This blog ‘On The Outside’ began as I prepared to leave. It is an oblique reference to something Lyndon B. Johnson is reputed to have said, possibly in reference to the toilet arrangements on a camping trip.

Euan covered well that an intranet is not a site. It’s a NET. “Intranet” see?

I’d like to move on to the other 5 letters of the word:
It’s internal! It’s ‘inside the family’. It doesn’t have to exhibit perfect behaviour so you aren’t embarassed in front of the neighbours. It’s something you knock up quickly to try stuff out on, in the privacy of your own home. It needs to be just good enough for purpose. Yes, you can build a corporate HR site and make it available ‘on the intranet’ but you must have the minimum number of controls on the intranet that allow it to function legally. It should be a living thing, undergoing evolution in tooth and claw. When Darwin said ‘Fittest’ he didn’t mean ‘best’. He meant the best fit. You may think some of the fashion choices look a bit slutty but the intranet is a dress-down day not an industry dinner dance. If you have a healthy corporate culture, it will ‘slut-shame’ only when necessary.

And for goodness sake don’t let ‘Corporate Comms’ anywhere near ‘it’ (though there isn’t a communications ‘it’ because ‘it’ is a network over which normal human comms will happen, if creativity and innovation aren’t strangled at birth.) It doesn’t need to be in corporate colours or approved font styles or to follow external communication standards because “this is only a test”. Please, please don’t corporately bland it.

Here’s what Euan said http://diginomica.com/2014/03/09/people-intranets/.

Power and Lust

I’ve spent a few days attaching solid-wall insulating lining-paper to the walls of my home office. To stop me climbing up said walls and hopefully to drown out most of the swearing, I’ve been listening to the ‘Business Shift’ podcasts by Megan Murray and Euan Semple. I started with #19 after seeing @Euan tweet about it, then listened to #6 on “Power”, largely because I feel a recent victim of its abuse. Since then, I’ve gone back to the beginning and forward, so far, to #10 “Security”.

Megan and Euan are interested in some of my many obsessions and we seem to share similar values but they come at everything from a slightly different angle, which is always interesting. Listening quickly to several podcasts, recorded over months, allows you to see recurring themes: change, corporate culture, process, networks, complexity, infinite shades of gr(e/a)y (including ball-gags), relationships, anarchism, agility and “IT”.

Their distrust of ‘IT’ is very similar to my distrust of ‘Management’ and they blame it for exactly the same things I blame managers. I see IT from below, where well-meaning and knowledgeable techies propose great ideas that get watered down and corrupted by ‘IT Management’ who feel the need to simplify everything, and then blame the resultant crass decisions on other managers ‘in the business’ (I’ve never quite understood why IT isn’t .) Where I hear “the business won’t pay for it”, I guess Megan and Euan are told, “IT say we can’t do that.” A quick comparison with science and politicians is alarming.

I’ve finally been pushed over the edge into responding by the suggestion that information ‘Security’ is an IT issue. I spent a year of my life telling IT managers that they may own the ‘Technology’ but that the ‘Information’ belonged to the business; that IT controls were only an answer after you had helped the business identify information resources and analysed value and risk. My attempt to change culture was countered by making my post redundant, centralising IT Security and appointing someone who didn’t want to mess with the borders of power. I’m sure my customers were told that I’d wasted a year but now they’d bought in someone who knew what he was doing and they got a single desk-top with automatically updating anti-virus software and fire-walls, whether we needed it or not.

Megan and Murray talk around the way in which the world of work is being ‘Shift’ed by Internet-enabled networks of (hopefully) intelligent humans. A world where people in the business who are trying to do useful things can connect directly to people who have expert knowledge of the tools they need, bypassing the layers of power-hungry or frightened people who corrupt the signal to further their own selfish interests.

You should have a listen and decide whether you want to take back the world from the people who think they own it http://business-shift.com/. I particularly recommend http://business-shift.com/podcast/2013/4/25/shift-episode-006