The TameFlow Book suggests extrapolating software engineering approaches to managing general knowledge-work organizations. How could it be that taking something that is relatively specific and then make it generally useful actually works?
If you look at traditional software processes, methods and even the more recent agile approaches, they are too specific to that domain. There is no way those ways of working can be made generic for other industries.
However if you look at the underlying patterns, paths of communication and ways of interacting that are typical of a software organization, well those can all be considered as the archetypes of what is happening in a more generic knowledge-based organization.
This becomes even more evident if we are considering the socio-technical changes which are coming through the always more extended use of computers and the internet. Networking and digitization affect all industries; in a way all industries are transforming into knowledge-work businesses.
One amazing example is that of contour crafting. Basically it is a very large 3D printer which can bring up a whole building in a matter of weeks rather than months or years. That is an example of a traditional, literally “bricks-and-mortar” business which is transformed and is becoming driven by software.
In general we are witnessing a number of business processes that are all becoming files in a computer, rather than being managed as paper files in a drawer or handled as some artifactsin the physical world. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are two obvious examples.
By becoming files in a computer, the underlying processes become invisible. They become even more immaterial, and abstract. Formerly, immaterial processes were constrained and confined only to product development and design. But now, even things like sales, order management and basically all business process have become invisible.
Here is the link: what is the main characteristics of software? it is that it is immaterial and invisible. That is why the ways that software people have devised to resolved their “management” challenges can be seen as the archetypes for managing knowledge-work.
We see some very interesting fallout of this.
For instance, just a few years ago Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, proclaimed that you should work at work, and not work at home. Many have interpreted such statements as an instance of trying to get back to a “command-and-control,” Tayloristic, industrial-age view of work. However the statement could also be interpreted in another way, in light of how knowledge-work actually happens. The intent of this kind of thinking could actually be seen as a re-evaluation of the face-to-face interactions between people.
In fact, face-to-face interactions are one of the most effective means of creating knowledge. It was one of the central ideas of Extreme Programming, the idea of co-location. Thus the intent is to create interactions, to create communication and to create what is often referred to as an institutional memory, whereby things get remembered because they have been experienced first hand, and not because they have been written down in some form of documentation.
All these processes that we have first seen in the world of software are now happening in all industries. That’s why what has been done in the world of software can be considered as the archetype of what can be done in all these knowledge-work industries.