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Cooperative work (LSCITS EngD 2012)

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Discusses fundamentals of cooperative work and how an understanding of cooperation is important when examing organisational systems

Discusses fundamentals of cooperative work and how an understanding of cooperation is important when examing organisational systems

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  • 1. Cooperative work Ian SommervilleCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 1
  • 2. TeamworkCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 2
  • 3. Why important? • The aim of enterprise systems is to support work in complex organisations. To design these systems, we therefore need an understanding of how work is done. • Poor understanding of the nature of work as it is actually practised, is a major contributory factor to the ineffectiveness of complex computer systems. • Interactions between people, organisational structures, and systems lead to complexity.Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 3
  • 4. Types of work • Skill-based, which relies on specific skills developed by an individual – Can often be highly automated if skills can be applied in a context-free way e.g. typesetting • Rule-based, which relies on people following a pre- defined process or set of rules – Automation is possible for ‘normal situations’ but more challenging for exceptional situations • Knowledge-based, which relies on the application of the worker’s knowledge in new situations – Automation of knowledge-based activities is very limitedCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 4
  • 5. Socio-complexity • Complexity in a system that arises because of the interactions between the people who are part of the system • Socio-complexity focuses on complexity caused by pluralities of perspective and people’s assumptions & interests. – Manifested as explicit and implicit conflicts between actors and stakeholders in a system – The larger the system, the more people who are involved and the greater the socio-complexityCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 5
  • 6. Influences on work • Organisational policies, processes and procedures • Organisational culture – Anything allowed unless explicitly forbidden (ask for forgiveness) – Everything is forbidden unless explicitly allowed (ask permission) • Background and education • National culture • TrainingCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 6
  • 7. Types of cooperation • Synchronous – People work together at the same time • Asynchronous – People work together but at different times • Co-located – People work together in the ‘same’ place • Distributed – People work together in ‘different’ placesCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 7
  • 8. Processes and workflow • Processes are mechanisms for coordinating work – Activities – Agents – Artefacts • A workflow is the automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information or tasks are passed from one participant (a resource either human or machine) to another for action, according to a set of procedural rules.Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 8
  • 9. Process example – activity perspectiveCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 9
  • 10. Division of labourCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 10
  • 11. Taylorism • The application of ‘scientific method’ to the organisation of work with a view to improving ‘efficiency’ and reducing waste • Basis of ‘time and motion’ studies, where the way that work should be done was prescribed in detail • Taylorism can be seen as the division of labor pushed to its logical extreme, with a consequent de- skilling of the worker and dehumanisation of the workplace.Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 11
  • 12. Business process reengineering • Business process reengineering (BPR) is a fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes whose aim is to make dramatic improvements in cost, quality, speed, and service • In essence, a form of Taylorism for business rather than production-line processes • BPR combines a strategy of relating business innovation with major changes to business processes • Focus is on workflow and process automation • Generally reliant on complex IT systems to support workCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 12
  • 13. The failure of BPR • BPR was widely adopted in the 1990s but it is now generally accepted that, with a small number of exceptions, it has been an abject failure • Few if any organisations have achieved the expected efficiencies promised by BPR • Reasons – Work is, in practice, surprisingly complex – The notion that knowledge-based work could be represented in simple workflows was mostly incorrectCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 13
  • 14. Processes in an STS • Operational and management processes are a fundamental part of a socio-technical system and there should be a clear understanding of the relationships between these processes and the use of the system • However, process design should be indicative rather than prescriptive as there will almost always be a need to refine processes and adapt them to local circumstances – Work is a social process governed by social and cultural norms so different teams work in different ways – Within teams, the division of labour is being constantly renegotiated depending on workload, etc.Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 14
  • 15. Process diversity • Processes interpreted by individuals and teams according to their training, background, level of authority, etc. • Processes have to be dynamically adapted to cope with changing local circumstances – Workload – Capabilities of local IT systems – Availability of people or other resources – Exceptions and failures • Teams discover local optimisations to make processes more effectiveCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 15
  • 16. Work-arounds • A workaround is a bypass of a recognized problem in a system that is, generally, created and refined by the actors involved in the system • From a dependability perspective, you can think of workarounds as a mechanism for fault tolerance – They allow system operation to continue in the presence of ‘faults’ • Workarounds rely on: – Local resources – what do you have available at the time – Local knowledge – who is available, what are the local boundaries of responsibility, etc.Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 16
  • 17. Contingent division of labour • Teamwork involves a contingent division of labour • The formal division of labour is constantly (and often implicitly) renegotiated depending on workload, context, availability of expertise and knowledge, etc. • Formal process descriptions therefore are an impoverished description of the work being doneCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 17
  • 18. Examples • Team working on deliverable to deadline – Formal roles tend to be abandoned – everyone mucks in to get the work done in time • Unexpected absence of team members – Work is dynamically re-allocated to those members that are available – Tasks are prioritised and lower priority tasks are discarded • ‘Normal’ fluctuations in workload – Managers and support staff take on operational responsibilities – People do what they can to reduce workload of key staffCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 18
  • 19. Perspectives on work • Awareness – How do team members become aware of what others are doing and how do they use this information to coordinate activities and schedule their own work • Artefacts and affordances – How is the work made visible and hence shareable? What affordances are provided by the artefacts and what are their limitations? • The workplace – How is the workplace physically organised to support cooperation • Local knowledge – How is local knowledge used to facilitate cooperationCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 19
  • 20. Awareness • Knowledge of who is around and what is going on in the work environment • Essential mechanism for providing information to individuals that helps them organise their work – X is not around tomorrow so, although the deadline is tonight, it is OK to delay for a day • Problem with many software systems is that they don’t provide awareness of what else is going on in the system, who is available and what they are doingCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 20
  • 21. Control rooms 1Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 21
  • 22. Control rooms 2Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 22
  • 23. Artefacts and affordancies • Artefacts – The objects that are used by people in an STS • Affordances – What you can do with artefacts as a consequence of the way that they are designed/represented • Affordances of paper documents – Portable, flexible, robust, annotatable, persistentCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 23
  • 24. Flight stripsCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 24
  • 25. Annotations • Annotation is an important mechanism that we use to support coordinated activities • Annotations on paper documents are – Flexible. They can be graphical or textual – Identifiable. Individual annotations can be identified – Organised. Annotations can reveal the workflow in a systemCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 25
  • 26. Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 26
  • 27. The workplace • Workplaces are often designed or organised with the aim of facilitating cooperation • This often relies on the spatial arrangement of the workspace i.e. the placement of furniture, etc. • This may support awareness, coordination of work, joint working or informal collaboration • Challenging to replicate for distributed workCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 27
  • 28. ExamplesCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 28
  • 29. Local knowledge • Knowledge that is particular to a setting – Who are the local experts? – How to work with individuals? – What is permissable in that setting? – What are the real deadlines? – Formal and actual responsibilities and authority • How is this local knowledge used to inform the way that work is done?Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 29
  • 30. Examples • Getting support from systems administrators – Bypassing formal ‘help desk’ systems to solve problems more quickly – Knowing which of the sysadmins deals with your class of problem – Knowing how best to approach them as individuals for help • Organisational routines and calendars – Organisations often have ‘calendars’ – times and dates that are important e.g. end of financial year, beginning of semester, etc. – Formal deadlines may be set without regard for these calendars – Local knowledge of calendars allows work to be scheduled 30Cooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide
  • 31. Computer Support for Cooperative Work • Until the early 1990s, computer support was primarily focused on the individual worker • Coordination of the work was a not automated and few systems took the interactions between people into account • In the 1990s, it was suggested that this should be extended to cooperative work • Supporting systems are sometimes called groupwareCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 31
  • 32. Supporting teamwork • Automation of teamwork can be viewed from two perspectives: – A control perspective, where the role of the automated system is to control and monitor the work of the team. This is the workflow/BPR approach • Practically limited to rule-based work – A support perspective, where the role of the system is to support work as it it, rather than as it is defined • The CSCW perspective. Look at work as it is practised and devise tools that can be adapted by teams to support their workCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 32
  • 33. GroupwareCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 33
  • 34. Key points • Work using an LSCITS is inevitably a cooperative activity so an understanding of how work is actually practised helps us understand (a) requirements for and (b) limitations of supporting systems • Socio-complexity is complexity that arises from the interactions between people in a work setting • Work is often complex and workflow-based systems are rarely effective in supporting knowledge-based work • Key issues to consider when studying work are awareness, artefacts and affordances, the organisation of the workplace and local knowledgeCooperative Work, Socio-technical systems, EngD, 2012 Slide 34