The Industrial Age concept of a team is not appropriate for collaboration on the Internet
An event driven system
After writing the above, I sent it to Yvan Caron for his comments to make sure I hadn't misread his post. This is the reply he returned:
Just after I had sent you my comments regarding Chapter 10, for a brief period, I felt a bit guilty. I had the following picture in my mind : it was like if I had thrown an obstacle in front of your bicycle while you were moving towards the finish line. I knew that something was missing in your book but just could not put my finger on it or find the right words to express it in a clever way and with delicate distinction.
After reading your start to Chapter 11 ... I think and I recognize that I am influenced largely by the mind set of the company for which I work. All our work revolves around an integrated suite of state-of-the-art methods, processes, techniques and tools to help us as consultants to manage large-scale, risk-prone projects.
These methods are an integrated, dynamic, fast moving, and cyclical approach for delivering and maintaining information systems while controlling project costs. This is achieved by: providing an explicit and visible process through the use of deliverables which enables managers to control development projects or maintenance activities; enabling reuse of processes, concepts and deliverables to increase productivity and mobility of project teams; focusing on usable, flexible, and maintainable business solutions that are delivered on-time and within budget; defining clear roles and responsibilities for the professionals involved in a project and providing guidelines to decrease the time they need to become proficient in their tasks.
These processes are captured, structured and embodied today in our knowledge management system. Since everything revolves around the production of deliverables, managers know how much they will pay for each of these deliverables. I think this is one of the key reasons why I was shocked while reading Chapter 10. I just could not figure out how we could act as a responsible solution builder if we had no metrics to guide us.
But the distinction you now make in Chapter 11 is important because it helps us to understand what was previously fuzzy in your writing, namely: the distinction between my idea of a group in the corporate world from your idea of a group in the Information Age. It is important because this distinction will surely influence the metrics that we will have to discover in order to control project costs.
If you can find a way to explain how you will control project costs using a bottom-up approach then it would be easy to convince not only entrepreneurs but big corporations also.
With this post, Yvan had high-lighted the chasm between Industrial Age thinking and Information Age thinking. He'd finished up by asking, "how will you control project costs using a bottom-up approach?". It still seemed inconceivable to Yvan that you needn't have to worry about monitoring and controlling costs with an Information Age solution.
This can only be understood in terms of another paradox. You control the costs in an Information Age solution by not controlling the costs. Isn't that a statement worthy of any Zen master?
The paradox is resolved by understanding that Industrial Age projects have a reasonably predictable environment to work in. There may be constant change, there may be intense competition, but, systems are designed to work within a known or estimated range of predictability where there are adequate, tools, techniques and methods to cope with the variables. Any possibilities of sudden, unpredictable, or, totally disruptive disturbances are treated as events to avoid rather than be planned for because regulated and controlled systems are highly vulnerable to changes of a chaotic nature. In the Information Age, chaotic and disruptive changes cannot be avoided, they are the norm rather than the exception.
An excellent example of a carefully planned system going wrong due to a chaotic disturbance is the Titanic. All the most up to date technology in the world had been used to create an unsinkable ship. What happened? On it's maiden voyage it hit an iceberg and the collision caused a rupture that was outside of the anticipations of all the myriad of design considerations. The unsinkable ship sank like a stone.
In the fast changing, chaotic environment of the Internet, the controlled and regulated systems of the Industrial Age are like the Titanic. They are vulnerable to the continuous flow of new icebergs being created by the rapidly evolving technologies. A sudden new development could crack a carefully planned system wide open. One has only to read through the records of various multi million dollar corporate cruises into the world of e-business and e-commerce to see ample evidence of this.
Some corporations see increasingly more and more sophisticated techniques of control and regulation as the answer to the problem of chaotic change, but, this is a brain dead way to go. The solution lies in abandoning any thoughts of control and regulation altogether and go for a self regulating system.
Self regulating systems, to anybody used to regulation and control, are difficult to understand and believe in. For this reason I'll take some more examples from my experiences in the world of bricks and mortar to explain the underlying basis of such systems. We can then abstract out the general principles and map them across to the environment of the Internet.