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Re: It depends

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  • Fred Nickols
    ... I was fascinated by your comment, John, especially in light of the fact that insurance claims examiners were one of the communities of practice studied
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 4 3:57 AM
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      --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "John D. Smith" <john.smith@l...> wrote:
      > ... a competent member of a community of practice
      > knows when to say, "it depends." (And then they
      > know what to do next.

      I was fascinated by your comment, John, especially in light of the
      fact that insurance claims examiners were one of the "communities of
      practice" studied early on. Allow me to explain why.

      I used to make a living studying the work of people whose response to
      questions about what they did, when, why and so forth consisted of "it
      depends." In the case of claims examiners, loan officers,
      underwriters and so on, "it depends" typically refers to contingent
      actions. If condition X prevails, they do A; if condition Y prevails,
      they do B and so on. My job was to map all that out, document it in
      the form of algorithms and then stuff it inside a computer. In short,
      automation. The net of it all in some cases was to demolish what had
      once been a thriving community of practice. In others, automation
      wasn't the aim; instead, the goal was to improve human performance and
      in these cases the communities of practice were strengthened instead
      of demolished.

      And how did I do what I used to do? Well, as I used to say when a
      client would ask, "It depends."

      Thanks for the reminder...

      Regards,

      Fred Nickols
      www.nickols.us
      nickols@...

      Is automation a reasonable response to all kinds of work in which "it
      depends"? Of course not. But is a reasonable response to some.
    • l_r_i
      John, The Hinds and Kiesler collection has a number of very nice readings in it that relate to disambiguation. I especially liked the chapter by Mortensen and
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 9 9:01 AM
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        John,

        The Hinds and Kiesler collection has a number of very nice readings
        in it that relate to disambiguation. I especially liked the chapter
        by Mortensen and Hinds, "Fuzzy Teams: Boundary Disagreement in
        Distributed and Collocated Teams." They note: "we surveyed twenty-
        four product development teams...Of the twenty-four teams surveyed,
        not a single team was in complete agreement on its team boundary: who
        was and who was not a member of the team. In fact the average level
        of agreement within the sample was only 75 percent" (p.285).

        Regards,

        Larry Irons
        lirons@...

        --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "John D. Smith" <john.smith@l...>
        wrote:
        > A couple of ideas about communities of practice conicided for me
        this week.
        > While waiting to be excused from Jury Duty last Monday, I started
        plowing
        > through a fairly heavy tome on "distributed work". The first
        chapter got me
        > to thinking about how communities of practice communicate ambiguity
        as much
        > as dis-ambiguity or precision: a competent member of a community of
        practice
        > knows when to say, "it depends." (And then they know what to do
        next.
        > That's what practice is all about.)
        >
        > Here's the chapter citation and its abstract.
        >
        > John Leslie King and Robert L. Frost, "Managing Distance over Time:
        The
        > Evolution of Technologies of Dis/Ambiguation" in Hinds, Pamela J.
        and Sara
        > Kiesler (eds), Distributed Work. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002),
        pp.
        > 3-26.
        >
        > The management of distance is as old as work itself. Successful
        management
        > of distance requires a careful balancing of disambiguation and
        ambiguation
        > in the construction of meaning among disparate parties in
        collaboration. We
        > argue that current efforts to develop technology for improved
        management of
        > distance concentrate almost exclusively on improving means of
        > disambiguation. This strategy overlooks the subtle but crucial role
        of
        > ambiguation in maintaining shared understanding while allowing local
        > discretion. We explore four successful technologies of
        dis/ambiguation that
        > have evolved over centuries: writing and money as examples of
        disambiguating
        > technologies, the doctrinal traditions of the Roman Catholic
        Church, and the
        > creation of constitutional government as examples of ambiguating
        > technologies.
        >
        > Later in the week I spent some time on the phone with Frank
        Dougherty, one
        > of the guest speakers for the Foundations Workshop. Ostensibly we
        were
        > talking about technical problems with the Java applet chat client
        in Web
        > Crossing, but got to talking about ambuguity and the development of
        > questions that bring people together. On reflection framing
        ambiguity is a
        > really big deal. I think that Frank's work on language acquisition
        as
        > depending on reading social situations is very interesting. I also
        like his
        > resource page, below.
        >
        > http://fdhis.typepad.com/Audioblog-ID%20tool.doc
        >
        > http://fdhis.inknoise.com/CommofPractice/2004/12/30/0001
        >
        > John
        > *
        > * John D. Smith - John.Smith@L... V: 503.963.8229
        > * "That's how Jazz was born: somebody goofed!" -- Count Basie
      • jpalmertx@aol.com
        Southwest Airlines allocates one operations agent per flight. The operations agent acts as a boundary spanner, communicating among and between all the
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 9 9:54 AM
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          Southwest Airlines allocates one operations agent per flight. The operations
          agent acts as a boundary spanner, communicating among and between all the
          various people it takes to receive, service and send back out a commercial
          flight (baggage handlers, gate agents, flight crew, refueling technicians, etc.)
          Southwest is typically a best practice leader at minimizing gate time, and
          on time departures.

          Other airlines often load up their operations with over a dozen flights to
          manage. These airlines provide by computer, data on all these flights,
          thinking one ops agent with sufficient unambiguous information can make decisions
          on all these flights in a multi-tasking way.

          Guess how their gate time compares to SW? (for a great book on this see The
          Southwest Airlines Way, by Jody Gittell. Chapter Ten is about the operations
          agent as boundary spanner.)

          I see the role of the operations agent at SW Airlines as providing the human
          interaction needed to resolve what paths, actions to take going into the
          ambiguity that each moment represents. The added face time, and boundary
          spanning, is where, I would suggest knowledge and meaning are generated and used to
          make good, coordinated, decisions with a high level of community of practice
          involvement.


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • John D. Smith
          Larry, Wow. Haven t made it to Mortensen and Hinds yet. But that s a very striking statement. I see two connections to communities of practice: * I wonder
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 9 11:12 AM
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            Larry,

            Wow. Haven't made it to Mortensen and Hinds yet. But that's a very
            striking statement. I see two connections to communities of practice:

            * I wonder whether, in a community of practice, there is MORE disagreement
            as to membership? It often seems that the effect of technologies like lists
            is to force membership boundaries so they are sharper (as opposed to, say,
            blog-based communities which wouldn't enforce boundaries AT ALL).

            * It seems to me that the meaning of membership in a team is not as frought
            as it might be in a community of practice. Not being included or seen to be
            legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the extent that
            community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion could be
            really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it really is?)

            John
            *
            * John D. Smith - John.Smith@... V: 503.963.8229
            * "That's how Jazz was born: somebody goofed!" -- Count Basie
            -----Original Message-----
            From: l_r_i [mailto:larryi@...]
            Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 9:01 AM
            To: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [cp] Re: It depends

            John,

            The Hinds and Kiesler collection has a number of very nice readings
            in it that relate to disambiguation. I especially liked the chapter
            by Mortensen and Hinds, "Fuzzy Teams: Boundary Disagreement in
            Distributed and Collocated Teams." They note: "we surveyed twenty-
            four product development teams...Of the twenty-four teams surveyed,
            not a single team was in complete agreement on its team boundary: who
            was and who was not a member of the team. In fact the average level
            of agreement within the sample was only 75 percent" (p.285).

            Regards,

            Larry Irons
            lirons@...
          • Nancy White
            ... Hm, interesting. I experience it as the opposite. Maybe that s because I like to be invisible in some of my communities. Or that outside status is one
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 9 11:29 AM
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              At 11:12 AM 3/9/2005, you wrote:
              >Not being included or seen to be
              >legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the extent that
              >community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion could be
              >really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it really is?)

              Hm, interesting. I experience it as the opposite. Maybe that's because I
              like to be invisible in some of my communities. Or that outside status is
              one legitimate status. My identity is not exclusively determined by what
              community I belong to nor by how others see my standing in that community.
              It might be an influence. (Or I may just be a loner!!) My work is a more
              defining element for me. That said, I think this would vary widely between
              people.

              If I'm on a team and no one else thinks I'm on that team, I've got a huge
              problem. Teamwork by definition to me is about interdependent work. If I am
              to work with people, I have to find some way for them to see me as part of
              the team, or I could not get the work done.

              If I'm in a community and no one knows I'm in that community, I have a
              choice to keep it that way or change it. Think of legitimate peripheral
              participation. That status may be constantly shifting.

              Hm. I guess I realize that only in rare exceptions (maybe my "central
              community') do I care about standing. Does community really end up being
              about standing and identity? How much? I never thought about it, so these
              may be ignorant questions. Is standing a central CoP element or just in
              some where it has implications to one's profession? Is that an important
              element?

              Thought provoking. (Now, back to work or my team, who know's I'm there,
              will be after me!!)

              Nancy


              Nancy White - Full Circle Associates - http://www.fullcirc.com - 206-517-4754
              http://public.xdi.org/=nancy.white
              Blog: http://www.fullcirc.com/weblog/onfacblog.htm
            • Beverly Trayner
              ... and ... A clarification question: What do you mean by standing? Is it related to status and/or power? Beverly Our vision is more obstructed by what we
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 9 11:38 AM
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                >> Not being included or seen to be
                >> legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the extent
                >> that
                >> community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion could
                >> be
                >> really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it really
                >> is?)

                and

                > Is standing a central CoP element or just in
                > some where it has implications to one's profession? Is that an
                > important
                > element?


                A clarification question:
                What do you mean by standing?
                Is it related to status and/or power?

                Beverly

                Our vision is more obstructed by what we think we know than by our lack
                of knowledge. ~ Kristen Stendahl ~

                Beverly Trayner
                Escola Superior de Ciências Empresariais
                Campus do IPS
                Estefanilha
                Setúbal 2914-503

                Tel: ++351 265709357 (work)
                Tel: ++351 968953247 (mobile)
                Homepage: http://btrayner.info
                Blog: http://btrayner.blogspot.com

                On Mar 09, 2005, at 7:29 PM, Nancy White wrote:

                >
                > At 11:12 AM 3/9/2005, you wrote:
                >> Not being included or seen to be
                >> legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the extent
                >> that
                >> community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion could
                >> be
                >> really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it really
                >> is?)
                >
                > Hm, interesting. I experience it as the opposite. Maybe that's because
                > I
                > like to be invisible in some of my communities. Or that outside status
                > is
                > one legitimate status. My identity is not exclusively determined by
                > what
                > community I belong to nor by how others see my standing in that
                > community.
                > It might be an influence. (Or I may just be a loner!!) My work is a
                > more
                > defining element for me. That said, I think this would vary widely
                > between
                > people.
                >
                > If I'm on a team and no one else thinks I'm on that team, I've got a
                > huge
                > problem. Teamwork by definition to me is about interdependent work. If
                > I am
                > to work with people, I have to find some way for them to see me as
                > part of
                > the team, or I could not get the work done.
                >
                > If I'm in a community and no one knows I'm in that community, I have a
                > choice to keep it that way or change it. Think of legitimate peripheral
                > participation. That status may be constantly shifting.
                >
                > Hm. I guess I realize that only in rare exceptions (maybe my "central
                > community') do I care about standing. Does community really end up
                > being
                > about standing and identity? How much? I never thought about it, so
                > these
                > may be ignorant questions. Is standing a central CoP element or just in
                > some where it has implications to one's profession? Is that an
                > important
                > element?
                >
                > Thought provoking. (Now, back to work or my team, who know's I'm there,
                > will be after me!!)
                >
                > Nancy
                >
              • John D. Smith
                I meant standing as an indicator of status or credibility. Some people s standing is such that even their mistakes are interesting, etc. John * * John D.
                Message 7 of 9 , Mar 9 12:10 PM
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                  I meant standing as an indicator of status or credibility. Some people's
                  standing is such that even their mistakes are interesting, etc.

                  John
                  *
                  * John D. Smith - John.Smith@... V: 503.963.8229
                  * "That's how Jazz was born: somebody goofed!" -- Count Basie
                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: Beverly Trayner [mailto:btrayner@...]
                  Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 11:39 AM
                  To: com-prac@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: Re: [cp] Re: It depends


                  >> Not being included or seen to be
                  >> legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the extent
                  >> that
                  >> community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion could
                  >> be
                  >> really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it really
                  >> is?)

                  and

                  > Is standing a central CoP element or just in
                  > some where it has implications to one's profession? Is that an
                  > important
                  > element?


                  A clarification question:
                  What do you mean by standing?
                  Is it related to status and/or power?

                  Beverly

                  Our vision is more obstructed by what we think we know than by our lack
                  of knowledge. ~ Kristen Stendahl ~

                  Beverly Trayner
                  Escola Superior de Ciências Empresariais
                  Campus do IPS
                  Estefanilha
                  Setúbal 2914-503

                  Tel: ++351 265709357 (work)
                  Tel: ++351 968953247 (mobile)
                  Homepage: http://btrayner.info
                  Blog: http://btrayner.blogspot.com
                • l_r_i
                  John, Interesting questions. I have found a lot of value in the readings in the Hinds and Kiesler book, slow going at times but very insightful analyses in
                  Message 8 of 9 , Mar 9 1:52 PM
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                    John,

                    Interesting questions. I have found a lot of value in the readings in
                    the Hinds and Kiesler book, slow going at times but very insightful
                    analyses in most of the chapters. That said, I'm not sure how I would
                    answer your questions except to say "it depends..." on what the
                    team's relationship is to the community of practice. I mean, the
                    boundaries of a team seem clearer to the extent that people share a
                    social identity.

                    Not to fixate on this one study, but the significance of the
                    Mortensen and Hinds research, at least in my view, is their assertion
                    that the study's findings imply that research efforts sould not
                    assume where the boundaries of teams lie. Rather, they suggest using
                    social network analysis to determine where team boundaries exist, who
                    is in a team and who is not. I especially appreciated their
                    assessment of their work's relevance to the study of boundary
                    spanners and, to get back to the original thread, the importance of
                    ambiguity in that process: "...it may be the case that many such
                    boundary-spanning activities are in actuality perceived by team
                    members as being completely internal to the team. Further,
                    complicating matters, given disagreement as to team boundaries, there
                    may also be disagreement as to the extent to which activities are in
                    fact internal versus boundary spanning" (p. 303). The point fits well
                    with some recent research I've seen on the importance of role
                    autonomy to boundary spanning activities, once again the issue of
                    ambiguity raises its head on that point as well.

                    Regards,

                    Larry Irons
                    lirons@...


                    --- In com-prac@yahoogroups.com, "John D. Smith" <john.smith@l...>
                    wrote:
                    > Larry,
                    >
                    > Wow. Haven't made it to Mortensen and Hinds yet. But that's a very
                    > striking statement. I see two connections to communities of
                    practice:
                    >
                    > * I wonder whether, in a community of practice, there is MORE
                    disagreement
                    > as to membership? It often seems that the effect of technologies
                    like lists
                    > is to force membership boundaries so they are sharper (as opposed
                    to, say,
                    > blog-based communities which wouldn't enforce boundaries AT ALL).
                    >
                    > * It seems to me that the meaning of membership in a team is not as
                    frought
                    > as it might be in a community of practice. Not being included or
                    seen to be
                    > legitimate in a team may be a hassle or an insult, but to the
                    extent that
                    > community ends up being about standing and identity, exclusion
                    could be
                    > really devastating. (Or am I making it a bigger deal than it
                    really is?)
                    >
                    > John
                    > *
                    > * John D. Smith - John.Smith@L... V: 503.963.8229
                    > * "That's how Jazz was born: somebody goofed!" -- Count Basie
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