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Monday, September 13, 2004

Workflow Learning

Jay Cross of the Workflow Institute raves about the component-based business (the subject of my 2001 book), which he calls a Business Singularity. He identifies some interesting consequences for what he calls Workflow Learning.

Workers are learning in small chunks delivered to individualized screens presented at the time of need. Learning is being transformed into a core business process measured by Key Performance Indicators.
This prospect raises interesting questions for what we might call the Architecture of Knowledge. If workers learn in small chunks, how can these chunks be assembled into a coherent body of knowledge? How does the way the work is decomposed between workers affect the learnings that are accessible to them?




In response to Jay's comment

Doesn't the underlying Business Process Management and Business Rules structure the KM as much as needed? The work itself lends the coherence, but some external taxonomy.

In my view, the structure provided by the Business Process Management and Business Rules is usually either underdetermined or overdetermined. The chunk is polymorphic, and takes on a different meaning according to the context in which it is framed.

Just because the workers digest chunks doesn't mean the chunks aren't part of a larger entity.

Indeed they may be part of a larger entity, but this doesn't happen by magic.



Think about the way a film director puts together a film. The actors may not know how their scene fits into the whole until they see the final cut. (Indeed, some directors deliberately leave their actors in the dark during the shoot.) Or think about the way a composer/arranger puts together strands of music. Composition/orchestration/editing is a skilled process, which the actors/musicians cannot always second-guess.



So if the work is distributed - perhaps across different organizations and locations - there is no guarantee that the coherence of the work is visible to the individual worker. Indeed, the composition of business processes out of services is one of the key challenges of the service economy. The point I was making here is that this composition also applies at the level of knowledge management and learning; and the possible fragmentation of knowledge is a serious issue.



More on this in my SOAPbox blog.



1 comment:

  1. Raves? Maybe. I think enthusiasm is justified when a new form of business comes about. I, too, have been talking plug-and-play business structures for some time. We seem to fish in the same waters.

    Doesn't the underlying Business Process Management and Business Rules structure the KM as much as needed? The work itself lends the coherence, but some external taxonomy. Just because the workers digest chunks doesn't mean the chunks aren't part of a larger entity. No? Or am I misunderstanding what you're askign?

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