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[com-prac] Re: Cost versus Knowledge for Different Types of Groups

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  • Louis de Merode
    Cost v Knowledge for Different Types of GroupsPaul: In my view, functional organizational units are also communities in addition to being formal organizations,
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 31, 1999
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      Cost v Knowledge for Different Types of Groups
      Paul:
       
      In my view, functional organizational units are also communities in addition to being formal organizations, so I am struggling with your table. I also don't see all these forms as belonging on a spectrum from low to high efficiency as much as I see them as being suitable for different types of task: no heavy lifting for communities, no open-ended reflecting for work units.
       
      Cheers!
       
      Louis
    • pmford3@yahoo.com
      Cost versus Knowledge for Different Types of Groups
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 1, 1999
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        <p><big>Immediately below is Louis de Merode's 31-Oct-99 response to my
        chart</big> (ie,
        Cost versus Knowledge for Different Types of Groups)</p>

        <p><font size="2">"Paul:<br>
        In my view, functional organizational units are also communities in
        addition to being
        formal organizations, so I am struggling with your table. I also don't
        see all these forms
        as belonging on a spectrum from low to high efficiency as much as I see
        them as being
        suitable for different types of task: no heavy lifting for communities,
        no open-ended
        reflecting for work units.<br>
        Cheers!<br>
        Louis"</font></p>

        <p><big>And my reply:</big></p>

        <p>I think it is great to have such a diverse set of CP practitioners
        participating in
        this CP site. So the challege for us is how to build a shared sense of
        what we know to be
        true as well as what are the important areas for us to focus our
        discussion, dialog and
        exploration (our learning agenda). So I am interested in testing out
        the differences I saw
        among types of common groups that exist within an enterprise (I am
        ignoring other types of
        groups that normally exist without any context of one or more
        enterprises; eg, political
        parties are an non-enterprise group). I think the distinctions among
        common enterprise
        groups goes to the heart of what we are talking about. So please bear
        with me as I try to
        explain my thought process.</p>

        <p>1) in the chart below I identified 4 common groups within an
        enterprise:

        <ul>
        <li><strong><font color="#008080">Functional Organization
        Units</font></strong> -- a group
        like this is visible as a box on an org chart (eg, Accounting; the
        group typically
        "own" its people resources, has defined job positions,
        performs services and/or
        produces products, members of the group follow defined procedures,
        operate under set
        policies).</li>
        <li><strong><font color="#0000ff">Teams -- cross discipline process
        teams and project teams</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- a group such as this is set up with members
        assigned from organization
        units to participate in a cross-functional process (eg, new product
        development) or
        participate in a project with defined deliverables, budget, scope,
        deadlines (eg, prepared
        the enterprise's mainframe systems so they are Y2K
        compatible).</font></li>
        <li><strong><font color="#800080">Networks, Alliances,
        Committees</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- a group here is more focused on a common
        interest area; a network can
        be as informal as a group of people who all attended the same
        college; an alliance such as
        a preferred supplier agreement will be staffed with participants
        from the member
        enterprises and their task is to make sure their enterprise's
        interests are represented in
        any decisions and actions taken; while a committee is composed of a
        set of people charged
        with setting and overseeing direction for some initiative or
        resource (eg, an Information
        Technology steering committee made up of managers whose groups
        receive services from the
        IT organization unit).</font></li>
        <li><font color="#400040"> </font><strong><font color="#ff0080">Commu
        nities of Practice,
        Communities of Interest </font></strong><font color="#400040">--
        here are the groups that
        share a common topic (eg, the affordable housing interest group in
        Boston) or a work
        discipline (rotating equipment engineers dealing with the
        enterprises's turbines and
        compressors running in production facilities). The members of these
        groups band together
        to help each other solve problems and share new
        learnings.</font></li>
        </ul>

        <p>2) Work Efficiency -- how much does it cost to get a unit of work
        accomplished (eg,
        what is the cost to move an individual's phone from one office to
        another office within an
        enterprise's facility). You can define the work, measure the cost,
        evaluate the quality,
        and benchmark this work against similar work performed by other
        enterprises.

        <ul>
        <li><strong><font color="#008080">Functional Organization
        Units</font></strong> -- <strong>Highest
        Work Efficiency</strong> -- the ideal here is for an organization
        unit  to be very
        efficient in that it can perform/produce at targeted performance
        levels (most org units
        don't live up to their ideal target performance levels but this is
        the intent in how an
        organization unit is structured and staffed).</li>
        <li><strong><font color="#0000ff">Teams -- cross discipline process
        teams and project teams</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- </font><strong>High Work Efficiency</strong> --
        teams are structured
        and staffed to produce their assigned results, however they are
        often dealing with more
        complexity and uncertainty than Functional Organization Units. So
        the complexity and
        uncertainty reduces the efficiency of the team to produce the
        intended result (over half
        of all projects no matter what the discipline end up failing to hit
        their targets in terms
        of budget, deadlines and quality of their results). The cross-over
        from "team"
        to "organization unit" is with self-directed work teams.
        Here, a team ends up
        actually being a functional organizaiton unit but the paricipants
        are more like a
        cross-discipline process team.</li>
        <li><strong><font color="#800080">Networks, Alliances,
        Committees</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- </font><strong>Low Work Efficiency</strong> --
        we do not expect a
        group such as a core steering team for a preferred supplier
        alliance to perform highly
        structured work activities. These groups are charged with spending
        money and time towards
        improving how <em>OTHERS'</em> work is syncronized between the
        alliance enterprises. So it
        is not this group's efficiency an enterprise is trying to leverage.
        Hence the relaxed
        demand for performing up to some defined benchmark.</li>
        <li><font color="#400040"> </font><strong><font color="#ff0080">Commu
        nities of Practice,
        Communities of Interest </font></strong><font color="#400040">--<st
        rong> </font>Lowest
        Work Efficiency</strong> -- if you want your phone switched between
        offices, would you
        give it to a community of practice? Obviously we do not expect such
        an informal group to
        perform defined work processes to targeted benchmark levels. Here
        we are dealing with
        problems that don't fit pre-defined patterns, otherwise the problem
        would have been
        assigned to a team or a functional organization unit. There may be
        some strategic and
        macro-level ways of evaluating the results from the interactions of
        a community of
        practice (I have seen an ancedotal database set up to capture what
        when well and
        time/money saved by the knowledge shared among the community
        members). However work
        efficiency (cost per unit of work) is not even a factor for
        evaluating the value of a
        community of practice/interest.</li>
        </ul>

        <p>3) Knowledge Structure -- this is a spectrum spanning opposite ends
        where knowledge on
        one side is very explicit, highly structured and codified (validated
        and verified) versus
        the other end of the spectrum where knowledge is very tacit, has little
        formal structure
        and new knowledge is emerging quickly (not yet validated and verified).

        <ul>
        <li><strong><font color="#008080">Functional Organization
        Units</font></strong> -- <strong>Highest
        Knowledge Structure</strong> -- the structural intellectual capital
        of an enterprise is
        mainly in its organization units' policies, procedures, forms, job
        descriptions, training
        programs, etc. All these knowledge artifacts are codified (besides
        being written down,
        they have been verified as correct and validated as been effective
        and useful). This
        structured knowledge is what remains after the people leave the
        office, plant, etc. and go
        home. Enterprises that have efficient organization units are
        competitive in their markets
        on product and service cost (especially in that they have higher
        margins with which to
        compete on price).</li>
        <li><strong><font color="#0000ff">Teams -- cross discipline process
        teams and project teams</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- </font><strong>High Knowledge
        Structure</strong> -- many teams start
        up with members already bringing to the effort existing
        methodologies, templates,
        checklists, and go-bys all ready to be re-used from previous
        projects. In addition there
        are common team/project competencies such as project management and
        associated tools (eg,
        Microsoft Project). All this background knowledge has been
        structured and codified
        (validated and verified). So teams can leverage what has already
        been done on similar
        projects in the past.</li>
        <li><strong><font color="#800080">Networks, Alliances,
        Committees</font></strong><font
        color="#400040"> -- </font><strong>Low Knowledge Structure</strong>
        -- typically a group
        here is a one-off effort with low structure and little explicit
        definition of deliverables
        and work products. Rather the focus is on improving how some set of
        organization units
        and/or teams work together. Members of this type of group are not
        involved primarily for
        their work execution abilities but rather for their broad knowledge
        and experience. To
        some extent a group can study how similar groups have approached
        this type of assignment.
        But in the end the group will have to figure out what will work
        best given all the
        peculiarities of their situation.</li>
        <li><font color="#400040"> </font><strong><font color="#ff0080">Commu
        nities of Practice,
        Communities of Interest </font></strong><font color="#400040">--
        </font><strong>Lowest
        Knowledge Structure</strong> -- here a group's knowledge is
        primarily in the heads of the
        individuals and is visible in their conversations and common
        explorations (new
        understandings leading to new knowledge). No matter how much a
        community of practice
        builds up a database of best thinking (written down, explicit
        knowledge), this database
        will be a small fraction of the intellectual capital represented in
        the members of the
        group. Some knowledge will be written down such as project stories,
        best practices,
        lessons learned. However if you are not a part of this community
        and practitioner of the
        discipline, this written down thinking will not provide you with
        the how to and the why.
        You will simply see the "what" of the described
        thinking.</li>
        </ul>

        <p><font color="#400040"> </font></p>

        <hr>

        <p><big><strong>Cost versus Knowledge for Different Types of
        Groups</strong></big></p>

        <p>Below is a matrix by which I attempt to portray distinctions among
        different types of
        groups within an enterprise. Two dimensions that help to bring out the
        differences are:

        <ol>
        <li><strong>how efficient is work performed by the group
        </strong>(i.e., how much does it
        cost per unit of work to accomplish the work itself, such as moving
        an individual's
        computer from one office to another) </li>
        <li><strong>how structured is the knowledge used by the group
        </strong>(i.e., is the
        knowledge validated, codified and made explicit or is the knowledge
        tacit, primarily found
        in the individuals as they interact within their group) </li>
        </ol>

        <table bgColor="#ffffff" border="1" width="630">
        <TBODY>
        <tr>
        <td rowSpan="5" vAlign="top" width="120"><strong>higher
        efficiency<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
        <big>Work Efficiency</big><br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
              |<br>
        lower efficiency</strong></td>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"><p align="center"><strong><font
        color="#008080">Functional
        Organization Units</font></strong></td>
        <td align="middle" width="19%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="22%"> </td>
        </tr>
        <tr>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="19%"><p align="center"><strong><font
        color="#0000ff">Teams --
        cross discipline process teams and project teams</font></strong></t
        d>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="22%"> </td>
        </tr>
        <tr>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="19%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"><p align="center"><strong><font
        color="#800080">Networks,
        Alliances, Committees</font></strong></td>
        <td align="middle" width="22%"> </td>
        </tr>
        <tr>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="19%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="17%"> </td>
        <td align="middle" width="22%"><p align="center"><strong><font
        color="#ff0080">Communities
        of Practice, Communities of Interest</font></strong></td>
        </tr>
        <tr>
        <td colSpan="4" width="75%"><strong>higher structure <---
        <big>Knowledge</big> --->
        lower structure<br>
        codified <------------------------------------>
        emergent</strong></td>
        </tr>
        </TBODY>
        </table>

        <p>by Paul Ford, 1-Nov-99, pmford3@...</p>
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