Last week's post by Jim McGee Managing the visibility of knowledge work kicked off a nice conversation on Observable Work (using a term introduced by Jon Udell) including: my blog post expanding on a comment I wrote on Jim's post; Brian Tullis's Observable Work: The Taming of the Flow based on a comment Brian made on Jim's post, which he found from a Twitter update by @jmcgee retweeted by @roundtrip; a Twitter conversation using the hash tag #OWork (for "Observable Work"); John Tropea's comment back to Jim from a link in a comment I left on John's Ambient Awareness is the new normal post; Jim's Observable work - more on knowledge work visibility (#owork), linking back to Mary Abraham's TMI post and Jack Vinson's Invisible Work - spray paint needed post, both written in response to Jim's original post; followed by Jack Vinson's Explicit work (#owork) and Paula Thornton's Enterprise 2.0 Infrastructure for Synchronicity.
That's a bunch of links! But I include them for a reason.
This modest trail is not only observable - it's spread over about a dozen posts on eight unrelated blog servers using unrelated software, loosely coupled by conversations, links and hash tags observable in the Web commons known as Twitter.
That brings three points to mind:
1) The fact that "intertwingle" is an amusing word can obscure an important idea I believe Ted Nelson is a Casandra-like inventor blessed and cursed with a rapier wit and the ability to invent concepts and coin terms that stick deeply in peoples minds.
One of Ted's mantras: "EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED.
Although I think it's useful to believe in the existence of subjects, in the past, conversations could only be intertwingled across paper memos, faxes, written reports and email.
2) The Web does what it's intended to do, so long as content is addressable and findable.
The fact that blog posts and comments are created and served by different content server systems is irrelevant, so long as the content is addressable using basic Web standards.
The fact that you don't need a single common place to contain all trails is an advantage of the Web, not a disadvantage.
The Web succeeds succeeds by making it possible for anyone anywhere to create a trail which others can find, follow and join using nothing more than their own Web browser, Web search layered over the basic Web, and a place like Twitter (one of many places where anyone can easily create visible, Web indexed trails).
The Web doesn't guarantee that you'll be aware of conversations on observable work going on in other trails unless you search or stumble upon a link which leads you connect the two.
The fact that everything posted publicly on Web is potentially observable doesn't lead mean you have to deal with Too Much Information shoved in your face - or into your email box.
You choose who and what to follow, augmented by Web search and your ability to jump in and join or forget about and a trail at any time - although you might hold on to a link so it's easy to find the trail again if you change your mind.
3) Business context makes intertwingled work easier to create, discover and use.
I believe the important point is supporting business context - not business process in the sense of transactional workflow or automated systems.
These functionally specialized systems will also signal their status using social computing standards that are now starting to take shape.
Much of what a sociologist would call "social" behavior when talking about Enterprise 2.
On top of relationships based well established patterns of work and conversation - Andrew McAfee's strong ties - enterprise social software opens the door to discovering people and groups who most folk in a large organization would never meet face to face.
This offers the same opportunities for serendipitous discovery we see on the public Web, but with privacy in context which enables open discussion and shared goals and purpose that are part of what Peter Drucker calls the purpose of an organization: "The purpose of an organization is to enable ordinary humans beings to do extraordinary things.
Much of what's challenging about using "observable work" principles can be addressed by examples at top, middle and grassroots levels of an organization.
As Paula Thornton says: "For as much as people want to make Enterprise 2.
To be continued Jim, Brian, John, Mary, Jack, Paula, Mark, Gordon, Rawn, Jose, JP, Tom, Deb and the rest of the World - over to you.
Unfortunately neither Twitter nor Google's hash tag search seems complete and reliable.
Apology to the Easily Distracted: Readers who find embedded links distracting don't have to click while reading the paragraph.
The Work Graph Model: TeamPage style - ".
Reinventing the Web - Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee and the evolution of the Web.
Reinventing the Web II - Why isn't the Web a reliable and useful long term store for the links and content people independently create? What can we do to fix that? Who benefits from creating spaces with stable, permanently addressable content? Who pays? What incentives can make Web scale permanent, stable content with reliable bidirectional links and other goodies as common and useful as Web search over the entire flakey, decentralized and wildly successful Web?
The Future of Work Platforms: Like Jazz - The social dance of getting things done, dealing with exceptions, and staying aware of what’s going around you
Fixing Enterprise Search - Context and addressable content in functional line of business systems
User Experience Standards for Social Computing in the Enterprise Notes for Mike Gotta E2.
Friday June 25, 2010: Observable Work discussion centered on Jim McGee's original blog post Managing the visibility of knowledge work, including a comment and blog post: Observable Work: The Taming of the Flow by @briantullis and a comment and analysis with several well sourced examples by @johnt, including this:
"Yes, the real learning is in all the nuances of how we work, not reading a manual, it’s a skill, a capacity to act….
I also think that the constraints of geography and time in virtual teams, kind of means that you have to pay more importance to working more visibly, but not just in a synchronous way like tele-cons…we can use other social tools for when we aren’t all in the same room…and I’m not talking email.
Here's a summary of Twitter chat using tag #OWork, including tweets that weren't shown using Twitter's built-in search - arghh!
@roundtrip is me.
@roundtrip: Several differences with Observable Work (#OWork) model:
1) It's discretionary.
? @VMaryAbraham: So it's an optional, discretionary source of additional info?
@roundtrip: More a discretionary way of working "with your door always open, and most of your desk browsable by (trusted) folk"
[That is] an way of working "with your door always open" without disturbing others.
Observable Work can be an individual or a group norm.
2) You're opening up your working in progress and analysis process to people you know and trust for a valid business purpose
3) Observable Work - learn by observing - is aligned with traditions of legal, medical and other teaching and learning
4) People who become excellent models based on OWork gain reputation and recognition in a virtuous sense IMO
? @lehawes How does relate to Social Business? (Asking w/
@roundtrip: We're using as a norm that may be a specific example (perhaps a best practice) for Social Business as a topic
@roundtrip: Tom explains why who sits next to whom in your office can make a huge difference in this new video: is.
@roundtrip: Strategy: Space Matters @TomPeters bit.
Next Things Next: Observable Work: The Taming of the Flow @briantullis bit.