Julian jenkins from data measures

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A powerpoint presentation from the DD4D conference in Paris in June 2009, arguing for a rhetorical approach to information design and organisational decision-making, as opposed to an analytical approach. The material from this talk was later published as an article in the Information Design journal which is also available on Slideshare.

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  • Imagine if you will …
    … a prominent academic, medical practitioner, company director
    … Board Risk Cmte member for a large Australian corporation
    She receives a pack of papers for the next cmte meeting …
    400 pages, 66 documents
    9 hours of preparation for a 2 hour meeting

    Imagine how she feels …
    She is frustrated -> Risk is an area she has taken an interest in
    … but after 7 years on the Board, and many diligent hours of reading…
    … she still only has 40-60% clarity
  • More worryingly, the date on the pack of Risk Cmte papers in October 2008
    … yet it is very difficult to find any point in the 400 pages which would give you a clear, concise sense of what the key risks are to the business …
    … in spite of the fact the company and the world is in the midst of a massive financial meltdown of historic proportions

    Something about this picture is not right, both in terms of personal experience and in terms of organisational decision-making

    What I will do in this talk
  • You have to feel sorry for the average corporate Executive or company director …
    … not long ago just financial statements
    … growth in topics, scale of operations, regulation

    Volume of information has become a risk …
    … Ignored until global financial crisis

    Time to ask whether the current paradigms for organisational knowledge and decision-making are sustainable
  • The current knowledge paradigm governing the management of large organisations is a product of the modern industrial age
    Starting at West Point in early 19C …
    Focus on measurement, quantitative analysis, regular reporting, planning and logistics
    First US college of engineering
    Turn organisation into a highly efficient machine
    Significant element in Union success in the American Civil War
    West Point graduates led some of the most successful industrial enterprises of the late 19C
  • Analytical method and engineering mindset good for some problems

    Efficient supply chains and production lines
    Testing quality and consistency of products
    Technological innovation

    Recent management approaches such as Total Quality Management, Process Engineering and Six Sigma are all firmly embedded within this tradition.
  • However, we are now in a different business context …

    … dominant metaphor - machine ->web,
    … manufacturing economy -> knowledge and services,
    … hierarchical power ->interpersonal influence,
    … key driver of business value is no longer efficiency of production but the quality and emotional resonance of the customer experience.

    Should we still be relying on the analytical paradigm in the 21C world?





  • It’s not that the analytical paradigm is no longer relevant, but it needs to be applied to the right sort of problems

    Aristotle

    1) where “things cannot be other than they are” -> physical world

    2) Where “things can be other than they are” -> human environments

    What sort of society do we want to have? vs How far is it from Marathon to Athens?
  • A more modern articulation -> Horst Rittel

    Tame vs wicked problems

    Eg sending rocket to moon – very complicated, but linear, “correct answer”, repeatable

    Mystery->algorithm


  • Wicked problem -> Creating a peaceful future for Iraq

    no agreed definition on what the problem is,
    no “right” answer, just better or worse options
    a highly fluid situation where the starting conditions keep changing
    can’t transfer answer to Afghanistan
  • The global financial crisis has shown just how wicked the problem space is for the leaders of large corporates and governments.

    The analytical paradigm did not save them from spectacular collapses and massive writedowns

    Helped them calculate how large their losses were … but did not provide any clear answers as to how to respond …
    … or how to deal with the vast human and social costs




  • Given these events, we might need to go back to the future …
    … and find out more about how decisions were made before there was data, before the rise of the analytic paradigm

    Aristotle, a father of scientific analysis…
    … recognised that a different sort of problem space requires a different knowledge paradigm, a second road to truth

    … and bequeathed two thinking systems - science vs rhetoric

    What is rhetoric ***

    Contrary to popular belief, the rhetoric is noble art, not ‘empty’

    Core elements of rhetoric are very different, almost opposite, to science
  • What would happen if we moved to change our stance from analytics to rhetoric as basis of knowledge paradigm?

    How would it change our approach to creating knowledge and making decisions?

    Current approach is a data-driven, IT-heavy process

    Bigger and better IT systems – more measures, more areas of the business

  • What if we reshaped our assumptions …

    … new paradigm for knowledge and information based on rhetoric and its close cousin, design

    … focus on users and communication process, not data and measures

    What difference would it make, what new horizons for our thinking about decision-making?

    What new opportunities could it create for information designers in particular?

    Stop treating senior managers and Boards like human supercomputers …

    … expected to process larger and larger volumes of information in smaller and smaller timeframes

    Instead, humans as meaning-makers …

    Board Risk papers user’s question: what does it mean?

    Her struggle was not with the parts, but the whole
  • If we make “meaning-making” the focus of our knowledge paradigm, then we find that there is a very different decision-making pathway

    Meaning-making begins with a conceptual framework, a gestalt of the system or set of processes that you are administering … … not a detailed engineering flow-chart …
    … but a high-level mental map which enables us to locate information and recognise where it fits.

    This is particularly important in today’s business world, where the systems and processes being managed are not tangible production processes easily viewed from an office above the factory floor, but are intangible and non-spatial.

    It became very clear during the global financial crisis that many senior managers and Board members did not have a clear conceptual picture of the systems and commercial interactions they were responsible for.

  • With a mental map in place, we are now ready to receive specific information about current issues and performance …

    … but not the volumes of data and reports filled with operational detail that are the current inputs to organisational decision-making.


    Revise*** [focus is on wrong level of information]
    We need to recognise that information becomes meaningful strategic knowledge when it is synthesised by human knowers …

    … who are aware of what the most important strategic questions are
    … who have direct knowledge of the operational context and can see where the most significant issues are
    … who are empowered to think and make judgments about what the key stories and messages are
  • Organisations that invest heavily in IT systems and measurement tools for knowledge often waste the intelligence and practical experience of their middle managers, who are relegated to the sidelines …

    … when they should be playing a very valuable role as alchemists of knowledge, turning base data into valuable strategic insights

    We need to recognise that information becomes meaningful strategic knowledge when it is synthesised by human knowers …

    … who are aware of what the most important strategic questions are
    … who have direct knowledge of the operational context and can see where the most significant issues are
    … who are empowered to think and make judgments about what the key stories and messages are




  • Once we have clear knowledge of the context and the issues, then we need to make wise judgments. Computers and accountants can crunch numbers, but choosing the most appropriate and meaningful action for a particular organisation faced with very specific issues …

    Stems from three important qualities

    Human experience

    Human empathy

    Organisational vision and values
  • Processes (cognitive and social)

    We also need to understand that the information we provide for decision-makers actually shapes the nature of their discussion and the quality of their interactions. We make people smart or dumb according to the level and format of information we give them. We make them active or passive in their responses depending on how we frame the information, what sense of priority we create, how clearly we articulate what action or decision would make the most impact.

    As one Board chairman said to me recently, if you only give us financial accounts as inputs, then it’s not surprising that the bulk of the discussion would focus on questioning the accuracy of individual numbers.





    In recent months I have sat in a testosterone-charged management meeting where the decision-making was disrupted by the egos, a Board meeting where the business was rushed through without any real room for discussion, and at least two sessions where a social process was significantly disrupted when a key voice in the room chose to directly undermine the presenter’s authority.

    Any attempt to improve the quality of organisational decision-making has to take account of the interpersonal and political dynamics that often get in the way of a good decision, of the way that shared meaning is either created or destroyed in social settings.

  • Decisions -> other outcomes

    We shouldn’t just think about what shapes the decision, either, but also reflect on the outcomes. While the quality of the immediate decision is the first and foremost concern, in the longer-term we should be aiming for more, for the growing sense of shared meaning and focused action that creates positive energy and momentum.

    And more than that, we should be able to weave the individual decisions into a coherent story, a guiding narrative that inspires confidence and engagement in the good times, while also providing clarity and stability when the organisation is buffeted by storms.
  • Perhaps the most important question for today’s audience is what new opportunities can we create for information design if we change our knowledge paradigm and conceive a new model of decision-making?

    Under the current paradigm for knowledge and decision-making in organisations, the perceived value of information design has been largely limited to making objective data more accessible, to a focus on “the visual display of quantitative information.”
  • [eg business planning and reporting cycle]
  • By expanding the scope of our knowledge paradigm, we open up some important new trajectories for information design. Let me conclude by quickly showcasing a number of the ways in which we at 2nd Road seek to use information design to promote better organisational decision-making.

    First, in order to lift the level of strategic insight being provided by middle managers, we have designed an approach to organisational reporting which actually lifts their capability to provide useful strategic insights and intelligence. The key to our success of our Top-down Reporting process has been to structure the new reports around the key strategic questions that senior managers and Boards need answered, not around specific measures and KPIs.
  • Our “strategic conversation process”, using our highly adaptable ABCD heuristic, enables groups of Executives to think together more effectively by combining facilitation of their discussion with live visual mapping, which plays a very important role in shaping a common understanding and shared meaning.

    We also use gallery style displays of information that enable people to “walk-through” a complex conceptual space, which creates a very different and more interactive experience and social dynamic.
  • [eg bluesheet]
  • [eg bluesheet]
  • In one landmark example, we worked with a large business unit of a financial services firm that was going through a merger. By using visual tools to create shared meaning around the metaphor of a city, we were able to dramatically accelerate the integration process and achieve a very successful outcome.
  • Let me conclude by saying that while there will always be a place for analytics in solving some types of business problems, there is a whole wide open field of opportunity to bring the skills of information design into the world of organisational decision-making – whether public, private and not-for-profit – in new and exciting ways.

    Information designers are first and foremost shapers of meaning, who bring together people and knowledge in creative ways to achieve coherent outcomes and take focused action. They are therefore ideally placed to bring a different toolkit, a rhetorical, user-oriented approach to helping people make meaning together.

    In a world which is drowning in information and grappling with wicked problems, information design provides a new toolkit for making sense of complexity and finding wise, human-centred pathways to a better future.

  • Julian jenkins from data measures

    1. 1. From Data and Measures to Meaningful Decisions Designing Useful Information for Senior Management & Boards Dr Julian Jenkins 2nd Road Sydney, Australia
    2. 2. Commercial in Confidence 20091 A story about user experience 400 sides of text 66 separate documents 2hour meeting 9hours of reading Sense of clarity 40-60%
    3. 3. Commercial in Confidence 20092 A story about user experience 400 sides of text 66 separate documents 2hour meeting 9hours of reading Sense of clarity 40-60% Oct 2008
    4. 4. Commercial in Confidence 2009 The growing scope of corporate information Corporate social responsibility Balanced scorecards Triple bottom line Financial statements Growing range of topics Multiple locations Growing scale of operations Multiple industries Multiple geographies, cultures 3 Internal compliance processes Growing scope of regulation External reporting Global financial crisis
    5. 5. Commercial in Confidence 20094 Management by analysis “From 1817 onwards … a generation in the USA learned how to learn in a historically new way.” Sylvanus Thayer West Point military academy 1817-1833 • Relentless numerical measurement of performance • Written reports as basis for management • Focus on planning and logistics
    6. 6. Commercial in Confidence 20095 The dominant knowledge paradigm The analytical method is really good at solving a certain category of problems ... ... with stable, measurable parameters ... with linear processes of cause and effect ... with predictable outcomes and repeatable, “correct” solutions
    7. 7. Commercial in Confidence 20096 From a 19C to a 21C business context Machine Web Hierarchical power Interpersonal influence Efficiency of production Quality of experience Manufacturing Knowledge and services
    8. 8. Commercial in Confidence 20097 Two types of problem in the world be other than they are“ ” Things cannot be other than they are“ ” Things can  Physical world situations with fixed, quantifiable parameters situations with multiple qualitative options  Human environments Aristotle
    9. 9. Commercial in Confidence 20098 Two types of problem in the world Horst Rittel Tame Problems • clearly definable problems • “correct” answers • repeatable solutions Mystery  Algorithm
    10. 10. Commercial in Confidence 2009 Two types of problem in the world Wicked Problems • multiple, interconnected problems • no “right” answers • unrepeatable solutions Irreducible fluidity 9 Horst Rittel
    11. 11. Commercial in Confidence 200910 Two types of problem in the world
    12. 12. Commercial in Confidence 200911 Two types of thinking toolkits Scientific Analysis Rhetoric • Objective data • Empirical measurement and observation • Rational deduction • Reduction to parts • Subjective experience • Qualitative judgments • Argument and persuasion • Cohering into a whole
    13. 13. Commercial in Confidence 200912 “Analytical” decision-making Senior Managers & Boards Data Measures Collated Information Rational Decisions • Automated reports • Dashboards • Data warehouses • KPIs • Data integrity • Alignment of measures A data-driven, IT-heavy process
    14. 14. Commercial in Confidence 200913 “Rhetorical” decision-making A user-centred, meaning-making process Senior Managers & Boards  
    15. 15. Commercial in Confidence 200914 A user-centred, meaning-making process Conceptual Framework A high level mental map or gestalt
    16. 16. Commercial in Confidence 200915 A user-centred, meaning-making process Strategic Knowledge Conceptual Framework Focused answers to the right level of questions
    17. 17. Commercial in Confidence 200916 A user-centred, meaning-making process Turning operational data into useful strategic insights “Alchemists of knowledge” Data Measures Collated Information Middle Managers Strategic insights Clear arguments Senior Managers & Boards
    18. 18. Commercial in Confidence 200917 A user-centred, meaning-making process Strategic Knowledge Judgement Conceptual Framework • Vision and values • Experience • Empathy
    19. 19. Commercial in Confidence 200918 A user-centred, meaning-making process Strategic Knowledge Judgement Conceptual Framework • Cognitive processes • Social processes Processes
    20. 20. Commercial in Confidence 200919 A user-centred, meaning-making process Strategic Knowledge Judgement Conceptual Framework Processes Good Decisions Shared Meaning Coherent Story Focused Action
    21. 21. Commercial in Confidence 200920 Unlocking the power of information design Senior Managers & Boards Data Measures Collated Information Decisions Content ‘The visual display of quantitative information’
    22. 22. Commercial in Confidence 200921 1. Creating clear conceptual frameworks Planning Program Design & Alignment Strategic Conversation (AcdB Conversation) Planning Conversations (12 Month Program of Work) Portfolio Conversations (Budget, Performance Targets) Strategic Review (Annually) Program Reports (3-6 Monthly Review) Performance Reports (1-2 monthly) Reporting Reflection & Evaluation Setting Direction Organising Action Doing Business planning and reporting cycle
    23. 23. Commercial in Confidence 200922 2. Lifting the level of strategic knowledge Is Product XYZ Operating Effectively? Level 1 Report SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES Appropriate revenue? Green Amber Red Cost to operate? 1 Community confidence in the system? 1 3 Are the right players in the system? 3 Clients understand their obligations? 2 Clients meet their obligations? 3 1 Risks identified and acted upon? 1 Internal capability? 2 Effective Design? 2 Sustainable Design? 1 OUTCOMES? OPERATING FEATURES? ADMINISTRATIVE DESIGN FEATURES? Data Confidence Rating (1 = Good) Role of intermediaries? • Revenue falling since 1999, but signs it may be levelling out • Most significant decline in Micro segment (44%) • High level of debt ($1bn) compared with total revenue ($3.46bn) • ATO cost is high, because XYZ requires full product support for a relatively small revenue return • Significant concern in community regarding cost, because of technical nature of XYZ, & administrative burden of compliance • Generally good feedback from community • Systems deficiencies pose threat to confidence. These may be highlighted by the forthcoming introduction of the portal. • No systemic method for determining appropriate participation • 35% decline in Micro registrations since 1999; however low levels of revenue involved • Good understanding of basic lodgement and payment obligations • Inherent complexity presents challenges for understanding at lower end of market • High level of compliance amongst Large, government & NFP clients; some concerns at Micro end of market • Good risk processes in place • Resources not always available to respond to specific risks • Low revenue base has resulted in low investment • Significant risks in terms of systems deficiencies and compliance staff skilling • Tax agents play important role because of inherent complexity • Good relationships established with professional groups • Fragmented nature of administration dilutes efficiency and inhibits improvement • Systems deficiencies make some tasks unnecessarily labour intensive and reduce administrative efficiency • XYZ administrative system is old and was designed for a different taxation environment • Processing systems are outdated, not easily adaptable, and are unlikely to be sustainable into the future • Falling revenue, though probably because of people moving out of the XYZ regime • Relatively costly and complex for ATO and community to administer • Systems deficiencies pose some significant risks to administrability, reputation • Relatively low skills base for XYZ across ATO – expertise vested in small number of staff Is Product XYZ Operating Effectively? Level 1 Report SUMMARY OF KEY ISSUES Appropriate revenue? Green Amber Red Cost to operate? 1 Community confidence in the system? 1 3 Are the right players in the system? 3 Clients understand their obligations? 2 Clients meet their obligations? 3 1 Risks identified and acted upon? 1 Internal capability? 2 Effective Design? 2 Sustainable Design? 1 OUTCOMES? OPERATING FEATURES? ADMINISTRATIVE DESIGN FEATURES? Data Confidence Rating (1 = Good) Role of intermediaries? • Revenue falling since 1999, but signs it may be levelling out • Most significant decline in Micro segment (44%) • High level of debt ($1bn) compared with total revenue ($3.46bn) • ATO cost is high, because XYZ requires full product support for a relatively small revenue return • Significant concern in community regarding cost, because of technical nature of XYZ, & administrative burden of compliance • Generally good feedback from community • Systems deficiencies pose threat to confidence. These may be highlighted by the forthcoming introduction of the portal. • No systemic method for determining appropriate participation • 35% decline in Micro registrations since 1999; however low levels of revenue involved • Good understanding of basic lodgement and payment obligations • Inherent complexity presents challenges for understanding at lower end of market • High level of compliance amongst Large, government & NFP clients; some concerns at Micro end of market • Good risk processes in place • Resources not always available to respond to specific risks • Low revenue base has resulted in low investment • Significant risks in terms of systems deficiencies and compliance staff skilling • Tax agents play important role because of inherent complexity • Good relationships established with professional groups • Fragmented nature of administration dilutes efficiency and inhibits improvement • Systems deficiencies make some tasks unnecessarily labour intensive and reduce administrative efficiency • XYZ administrative system is old and was designed for a different taxation environment • Processing systems are outdated, not easily adaptable, and are unlikely to be sustainable into the future • Falling revenue, though probably because of people moving out of the XYZ regime • Relatively costly and complex for ATO and community to administer • Systems deficiencies pose some significant risks to administrability, reputation • Relatively low skills base for XYZ across ATO – expertise vested in small number of staff
    24. 24. Commercial in Confidence 200923 3. Building human empathy
    25. 25. Commercial in Confidence 200924 4. Designing the social process
    26. 26. Commercial in Confidence 200925 5. Communicating strategy coherently
    27. 27. Commercial in Confidence 200926 5. Communicating strategy coherently
    28. 28. Commercial in Confidence 200927 6. Creating a meaningful story
    29. 29. Commercial in Confidence 200928 Unleashing the power of information design Wicked problems Strategic Knowledge Judgement Conceptual Framework Processes Good Decisions Shared Meaning Coherent Story Focused Action Meaning-shapersInformation designers
    30. 30. Commercial in Confidence 200929 Reference material Tony Golsby-Smith “Pursuing the Art of Strategic Conversation: An Investigation into the Role of the Liberal Arts of Rhetoric and Poetry in the Business World”, (PhD dissertation, University of Western Sydney, 2001). Keith Hoskin, Richard Macve & John Stone “Accounting and strategy: towards understanding the historical genesis of modern business and military strategy, in Bhimani, A. (ed), Contemporary Issues in Management Accounting, (OUP, 2006). Julian Jenkins “Information Design for Strategic Thinking: Health of the System Reports”, Design Issues, 24:1 (2008), pp. 68-77. Horst Rittel & M. Webber “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”, Policy Sciences 4 (1973), pp. 155-169.

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