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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Invisible Dogma -- Perpetuating Paradigms -- When you have time to sit down with a longer article, check out Mitch's essay on why, the more things change, they stay the same; that is, the more things change, the more we are often disappointed in the effects of that change. Some snippets...
"...Herein lies the importance of the invisible dogma: If a bias changes the performance of a tool and the tool will change the performance of a group of people, then we, managers, need to be very conscientious about the choices we make with technology..."

"...The very act of defining an organization requires managers invent a bit of dogma, a dollop of determinism in an otherwise chaotic environment -- after all, we can't be in the business of doing everything. A deterministic system is purposeful and supports goal setting. However, it that system eliminates the organization's ability to make choices in the future it writes failure into the DNA of the organization..."

"...The scientific method, which demands rigorous self examination by scientists of their data, their analytical choices and the final results, is the model for abolishing -- or, at least, substantially reducing -- built-in biases and limitations that can have a negative impact on the groups using technology for learning or management. It takes practice and is a practice that cannot be carried out by a corporate librarian or even a chief technology officer working on their own..."

"...Invisible dogmas -- unstudied and facile management fads or simple faith in a particular way of doing business imposed at some stage in an organization's life -- are akin to the religious fervor that laid civilization low in the early fifth century. Rigorous thinking was replaced by faith reinforced by dogma, which became unquestioned truth, very much like the company that, when asked why it does something one way and not another, responds "Because that's the way we've always done it."..."

"...Simply put, the source of dogmas is our own laziness about addressing systemic issues in our organizations and in recording the reasons we do things within a company. We opt, for instance, for "collaboration" software to make people collaborate instead of teaching them to work together respectfully and constructively. We fail to appreciate how these tools change the requirements when hiring new employees, and often blame the employees when they fail to thrive in the stunted learning environments we've created. If management wants to take credit for success, the institutionalization of critical thinking about our choices of information tools is absolutely essential to the role of a manager in the information age..."
Good stuff. (And a tip o' the hat to Doc for pointing me to that last critical paragraph.)

I've still got to digest the whole piece more for the full impact (and look forward to follow-ups on it), but a lot of what Mitch is saying feels like it's in synch with the TOC (Theory of Constraints) notion of the holistic nature of organizations and the need to manage them as such. Regarding his focus on the relationship of technology to learning organizations, the message that Eli Goldratt points out in his most recent book about technology and management, Necessary But Not Sufficient, is simlar. It's the paradigms (invisible dogma), policies (visible dogma or litany), and practices or processes (decisions and behaviors supported, and more and more institutionalized, by technology), IN THAT ORDER, that will define what an organization accomplishes in terms of fulfilling its purpose or goal. Technology must be subordinate to appropriate processes, which are, in the end, rationalized through the view of the current dogma. If it is understood -- if that dogma is made visible -- then there is the basis for real improvement in terms of achieving more "goal stuff." If it remains invisible, then a critical link in the design of the value chain is missing. Technology may be necessary today, but it surely isn't sufficient to assure organizational learning, growth, sustainability, or success.

In my world, the "scientific method" found embedded in the TOC Thinking Processes (a set of logical tools for analysis and communication that encourage scrutiny and feedback) is a way to make the invisible visible. And the common sense (to me at least) starting point of the core concept of the system's constraint serves as the most effective focal point for management attention and application of technology, or, for that matter, any effort aimed at real systemic improvement.

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