Jay Cross helps people work and live smarter. Jay is the Johnny Appleseed of informal learning. He wrote the book on it. He was the first person to use the term eLearning on the web. He has challenged conventional wisdom about how adults learn since designing the first business degree program offered by the University of Phoenix.
This morning, on a lark, I saved a couple of years of Blog entries in several categories as Microsoft MHT files, which are readable in Microsoft Word. Perhaps these will appeal to people who aren’t comfortable with Blogs (even though the style remains Last In First Out and the tone is flip).
Since these files are in Word/MHT format, right-click to download them. Earlier errors fixed.
If you use Internet Explorer (for shame!), you can simply click on these, but be prepared to wait a while for them to open.
Remember when thick, paperback software manuals were the rage? You could pay $25 for the book or $50 for the book+CD combo. Similarly, you might pay $1,200 to hear a visionary speak at a conference for an hour or $35 to buy her book. We have predefined notions of what a package should cost no matter what the value of its contents. Hence, we pay the same amount to rent a great DVD as a mediocre one. The Rhino CD of 20 versions of Louie, Louie retails for the same price as a CD of Glenn Gould playing Mozart’s Goldberg Variations. The latest book by Danielle Steele costs the same as a hardcover by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Changing the media can truly distort pricing. The high-profile consultant charges $20,000 for a one-on-one session, $10,000 to lead a workshop, $5,000 for a research paper on the topic, and $30 for his published book. Price irrationality really gets out of hand on the web. Some of the freshest, most direct information around can be found in Blogs, yet nobody pays to access a blog. The Blog form factor comes with the notion “free.” Some of the thoughts you’re reading right now may morph into a book or, better still, a $20,000 one-hour consulting engagement.
I just finished the first chapter and a skim of Howard Smith and Peter Fingar’s Business Process Management: The Third Wave. This post is an amalgam of their ideas and mine. I’ve been obsessed with the metric of time today, exploring where layers that usually move in tandem seem out of sync. Reviewing Steward Brand’s How Buildings Learn and Clock of the Long Now brought up parallels to my thinking about the rhythm of business, the future of work, and the assimilation of the Net into virtually everything, so don’t blame Howard and Peter if the following words don’t speak to you.
For the better part of the last 200 years, an enterprise has consisted of several businesses lodging under one roof. There’s a customer-acquisition business, a product-innovation- and-development business, an infrastructure management business, and support services such as HR, finance, & training.
It once made economic sense to keep all these processes in-house. (It would have cost too much to manage an outsider to do them.) Now the Internet has trivialized the cost of farming things out.
The current rule is to outsource the non-essentials. Example: Let UPS handle our shipping. They are better at managing delivery than we are. Better to free up some cash by having UPS own the trucks instead of us. Invest the money in our core competence (what we do best). Since this is what we excel at, we should extract a higher return on our investment. Using someone else’s assets like this enables us to do more with less. Nike doesn’t manufacture shoes. Cisco doesn’t make routers. We could all hand off less-rewarding functions and be better off.
Time and time again in business history, an upstart outsider topples a market leader. Inevitably, the new leader enjoys a cost advantage in the neighborhood of 30%. How? By managing the costs of an entire value chain rather than just its “own” costs. They’re all costs to the customer, no matter who owns the means of production. Business management becomes less like Monopoly, owning and managing assets, and more like Chess, making a series of good moves.
A game of Monopoly can wipe out an entire afternoon, but a chess master can play two dozen games at once, often declaring victory in less than fifteen minutes. Few enterprises are swift enough to mix and match steps in their value chains at the speed of the top players. The chess board these losers face is always two moves behind.
It’s as if the losers’ view of what’s happening has been trapped in some terrible time-delay. You see, yesterday’s managers came up with the best ways to do things, and they handed it off to their IT departments to implement. IT translated these solutions into indecipherable code. This was equivalent to carving the way they did things in stone and pitching them into a black hole. When conditions changed, obsolescence was assured. And change is rampant.
IT is not the bad guy here. Until quite recently, computer technology was so immature that years of study and teams of experts were required to communicate with the systems. Computers required users to bend to their will, to speak their arcane langauge, and to make people serve them rather than the other way around. This is about to change.
In the near future, business processes will be exposed for all to see. They will be like a document on the web. Since there’s only one copy, everyone sings from the same hymnal. It’s quick. It will always be up to date. Write once, read many.
Granted, the views on screen will differ by individual. The business analyst will see a process flow diagram that she can manipulated in real time. The business manager will monitor results from an executive cockpit with the ability to what-if analyze reconfigurations of the business. The worker will see a derivative of the process in a transactional portal or portable device. The programmer, who generally won’t be that involved since changes to the process automatically change the underlying code, will see the process at the code and interface level.
As the inside flap of Peter Fingar and Howard Smith’s book puts it, “Don’t bridge the business-IT divide, obliterate it.”
This afternoon I read The Real-time Enterprise, a prescient new book by Peter Fingar and Joseph Bellini. This is a management book, not a techie book. It’s subject is executing strategy, not IT.
When I approach a topic that’s on the horizon but not fully evolved, my first question is, “Does it matter?” Here’s the authors’ take on that:
A few paragraphs from the introduction to the book by Dr. Max More
The ideal vision of the RTE is one of companies where information moves without hindrance, and business processes are continuously monitored and trigger rapid reactions, usually automated according to embedded business rules. RTEs also sense shifts in tastes and practices and respond by offering new products and services. Automated processes easily traverse corporate boundaries, time zones, media and systems. Batch processes and manual input are minimized by ensuring that real-time information among employees, customers, partners and suppliers is current and coherent. The Now Economy is the instantaneous, frictionless economy of economists legendthe mythical beast that may fi-nally be emerging from the mist. The Now Economy is a web of RTEs that form a virtual supply and demand chain continually seeking information, monitoring, and responding, guided by humans, mostly at the highest strategic level.
The real-time enterprise is crystallizing out of a process-rich brew in which swim Web-enabled customer relationship management, supply-chain event management, enterprise relationship management, partner relationship management, content management, customer analytics, business intelligence, optimization, forecasting and simulation. Into the mix we can throw technologies, including application servers, enterprise application integration, Web services, microservers, event routers, enterprise portals, and digital dashboardsand at the heart is a new category of software, the business process management system.”
Permit me to add that the augmentation of worker performance in all this is called Workflow Learning.
Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Sun, and others are all headed in this direction because the Real-time Enterprise is accompanied by the competitive advantages of:
Any relation to my previous post is entirely intentional.
How could I not like a book that talks about smartifacts like SmartDust?
Soundbites from a marvellous panel session at the Supernova conference in Santa Clara last month. Moderator: Phil Windley. Participants: John Hagel III, Halsey Minor, Gordon Eubanks, Darren Lee.
Corporations similarly built walls around themselves for protection. Now the walls are tumbling down. It’s more efficient to outsource non-core activities, for example having someone do your payroll or manage your pension fund from outside the old walls. This “deperimiterization” also facilitates trade, coordination, and partnering with other organizations.
Bringing down the walls will totally change our definition of the enterprise. Instead of protecting commerce, since transaction costs will be dropping through the floor, the job of the enterprise will be to accelerate learning and deepen practices. IT support will be a combination of SOA, grid computing, and social network analysis.
The net is becoming the IT infrastructure. (Salesforce.com went public the day before.) Outsourcing IT is a tremendous cost saver. Imagine the “global elimination of duplicative effort.” You know the efficiency of keeping a single copy of a document on the web current as opposed to the old way of making and distributing copies? Imagine that applied to business processes. This is the only way to go, for BPM does not scale across enterprises; it would require loose coupling for that.
The progression of IT from mainframes to minicomputers to PCs to client/server all start on the inside of the organization and only secondarily reach outside. The future will focus on connections rather than nodes, and this means IT will focus on what’s incoming instead of what’s outgoing.
By the way, outsourcing IT is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re going to see more and more outsourcing that includes talent and equipment, too. Offshoring is not just wage arbitrage; it’s skills arbitrage. You will be able to outsource your entire manufacturing operation to China, for example.
I’ll blog more of the Supernova presentations as I listen to them.
Henri Cartier-Bresson has died at 93.
An inspiration for amateurs like me, Cartier-Bresson never used a wide-angle or zoom lens, for he wanted his camera to see what the human eye sees. Nor did he pose scenes or use a studio; much the better to shoot real life, where it happens. To pull this off, he was the absolute master at capturing the “Decisive Moment.” I think of this as a Zen-and-the-Art-of-Archery sort of thing; sometimes I press the shutter while holding the camera waist-high, not looking at the viewfinder.
I don’t know why I remember this, but it comes back to me whenever I eat North African hot sauce. Cartier-Bresson always carried his own tube of Harissa to spice up his meals. I’ve switched to Tabasco, but the thought is the same. And it reminds me to go through life in search of Decisive Moments.
Five of us met for several hours this Monday and Tuesday evening at a cafe in Berkeley to discuss Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order.
My notes are a bit of a jumble.
Let’s get practical…use this to do things better…everything’s connected…just doing the local is satisfying to some…locals, not local: it’s all relative…like Extreme Programming, don’t think too far ahead…look for guidance…give us a vocabulary for going step-by-step without prejudging and thereby limiting the outcome…
We did our own Alexandrian forced-choice comparisons. I’d brought these objects:
For each pair of objects, we chose the one with the most humanity…the most resonant…the one we’re drawn to. The ideal is to make the decision from deep inside, not thinking of categories or past experiences or cultural baggage.
We were unanimous in our feelings about these pairs. Which item do you find more alive?
Modern loupe or military loupe?
Ketchup bottle or salt shaker?
Swiss Army knife or Buck knife?
You must be “in the moment” to make judgments like these; mindful.
Are the binary, forced choices meaningful? The real world always has thousands of things swinging around, not just two. Is there truth in this? Truth?
by Jay Cross
Businesses exist to create value, and the source of value resides outside the learning function. As Peter Drucker has pointed out, Neither results nor resources exist inside the business. Both exist outside. The customer is the business.
Try to imagine a business without customers, perhaps an insurance company on a desert island or a manufacturer that never ships. No value, right? What goes on inside an organization is just rearranging the furniture.
Training directors bemoan not being able to demonstrate significant business results. If they remain entirely within the training function, they never will, because they dont own the yardstick that measures business results. Who owns that yardstick? Generally, its trainings sponsor, the person with authority to sign off on large expenditures. This is usually a company officer who can weigh the potential returns and costs of various investments and select those likely to create the highest net value. Since the sponsor decides training programs economic fate, its worthwhile to contemplate how sponsors typically make decisions.
All business decisions are relative. When assessing value, where you stand depends on where you sit. A training director may measure success in terms of lower costs and more workshops. A line manager is concerned with quarterly targets or higher revenue. A senior executive focuses on organizational flexibility and competitive advantage.
Managerial decision-making is generally more subjective than people recognize. ROI is often a hurdle or a means to focus preliminary cost-benefit analysis to screen out clear losers. When the time comes to make choices, gut feeling and good judgment often win out over formulas.
Training directors sometimes claim that pinpointing training outcomes is impossible because so many other things muddy the results. Its a weak argument. All business decisions are made with less-than-complete information. Waiting for enough information often means ceding thought leadership to the competition.
Sponsors dont usually back a project unless its economics are so compelling that they can do the math on the back of an envelope. If the odds are good that Ill get $750,000 in benefits from my $75,000 investment, I dont need four-place accuracy to decide to spend the money. This is business, not a science experiment. As a Fortune 50 company official recently told me, We manage this place with sound bites.
What if the benefits of your proposal are not obviously compelling? Pick another project. Executives are single-minded. They care about one thing: execution. They do not start from the assumption that training is the answer. They refer to people as customers, employees and workers. (We are the only ones who call them learners.) If people could master their jobs by taking smart pills, most training departments would close shop.
Not long ago I was addressing the division training managers at a top high-tech company. I suggested they work with their sponsors to identify business requirements and gain their agreementin writingon what would constitute success or failure in a training post-mortem. To my amazement and disappointment, many of the training managers rebelled. To do what youre asking, they said, wed have to understand the business. Well, duh. That was precisely what I was saying.
The way to get funding, to make significant contributions, to be recognized by management, to be promoted and to reduce the stress in your life is to make business metrics your yardstick for success and describe what you do in business terms. Here are a few examples to think about:
* Make sales force productive sooner.
* Implement strategic initiatives.
* Educate customers online.
* Increase reach into new markets.
* Decrease staff turnover.
* Reduce cycle time.
* Roll out enterprise processes.
* Speed up time-to-market.
* Keep partners in sync.
* Merge organizations effectively.
I adore maps. This weekend I read You Are Here, Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination.
Few of the 150 or so maps in the book describe roads and highways. These are maps of the anatomy, human emotion, memory, morality, health, chronologies, perspectives, politics, history, fantasy, and imagination.
I’ve decided to map the topic of Workflow Learning, itself a journey through performance, communications, convergence, enterprise, standards, competition, globalization, outsourcing, power structures, the Net, cognition, process models, and more. Without a map, it’s an easy field to get lost in.
This afternoon I was delighted to come upon this map of knowledge by Don Clark.
Maps appeal to me because they show connections and proportions; size indicates importance; getting the lay of the territory is rapid — a gestalt experience. Finally, maps are here to get you where you want to go, a nice meme in a confusing world.
It’s a pity that signs aren’t generally as friendly as maps.
A couple of days back I had a very enjoyable lunch with my friend Bob Horn at Greens, my first time back at this vegetarian Mecca in ten years. I asked Bob if he knew the menu; he replied, “This is my company canteen.” Absolutely wonderful food, attentive service, and a great view of the Golden Gate. Bob is a fascinating guy, the inventor of Information Mapping and author of Visual Language. Currently he’s helping governments and organizations solve “wicked problems” through visualization and argumentation mapping.
I’ve started reading Christopher Alexander’s four-book series, The Nature of Life, An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. I wouldn’t be doing this, at least not now, were it not for a small reading group of very bright and interesting people who are going to dig through the books together.
The story so far: Everything in the universe is alive. Don’t get Cartesian about this; just accept it. Comfortable ordinariness and lack of “image” quality are the main things which produce life in our current situation. Our Western, reductionist thinking assumes the whole is the sum of the parts. This is dead wrong. The Whole is what lives; it creates its own parts. Just look at the world without your cognitive prejudice, and you’ll start to see it.
I’m only a quarter of the way into this volume because I only read it during lunch on my front deck. From where I sit at our redwood table, one other house is clearly visible.
When we moved into our place a dozen years ago, workmen were putting the finishing touches on this raw concrete number. Christopher Alexander built the place.
If you could see the first floor in my photo, you’d be looking right over the sink that appears on page 409 of this first volume. I’ll share a few stories from the neighbors when Alexandrian theory bumps up against Berkeley reality.