Collaboration tools are now nearly ubiquitous in the home, in the workplace and on your belt. These tools are wielded by a generation that has grown up using text/SMS messages.

Collaboration tools are now nearly ubiquitous in the home, in the workplace and on your belt. These tools are wielded by a generation that has grown up using text/SMS messages.

A piece of advice I once received was that you either made things happen or let them happen to you. That piece of advice is as true now as it was then.  We live in an era of great change inside and outside the information technology community.  The advent of social media and its incorporation into workplace to foster collaboration is only one affectation of the change that is going on.  There are many messages the explosion of social medias such as LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs and podcast can share with the process improvement (PI) community.   The first and perhaps the most important message is transmitted by the extraordinary fact these tools exist at all.   The fact that these tools exist (not even reflecting on the fact that there are five more everyday) is that change is occurring and that it is unstoppable because it fits human nature. These changes are not only unstoppable, but gaining speed.  The change driven by social media is a very human kind of change which affects how people interact and how work is accomplished.  In the process improvement arena both you and your customers are the change.  This a statement on many levels.  I would like to focus on what the changing environment says about a changing vision of control.  Control is a critical concept in the process improvement community and the change I see in our industry is redefining the concept of control or at the very least challenging how control can be applied.

At its basic level, a control is a gate that interjects “permissions” between two groups.  For example, defining a process for tailoring a defined methodology for use on a project creates a control gate that regulates how work will be accomplished. The process defines the ritual required to granted permission to change the standard process.  The world that created these control gates is quickly being overcome by a new set of rules that govern collaboration and social interaction.  Workers in this new world can easily view permissions as a hurdle between them and getting the work done.  This is most true when control gates add drag to the process without adding perceived value.  This conflicts with an alternative, albeit more classic, view of organizational control, where relying on the wisdom of crowds or where a wide distribution of authority is view as contributing to anarchy.  The second paradigm is one that we have been trained to accept as true by models such as the CMMI or tools like Six Sigma.  It is the view that standardization is good and control is required for standardization therefore anything that challenges control leads to a suboptimal outcome.   I suggest that a change in paradigm is at our door, it is knocking and it isn’t going to leave. Change is inevitable and since we are the change, we can help guide change in our organizations and our industry or ride the wave and let change happen to us.

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