forwarded message from Gordon Irlam

From: John Conover <>
Subject: forwarded message from Gordon Irlam
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 23:56:13 -0700

In case you are curious, there has been a multitude of formal studies
that have addressed the issue of "computerizing" an organization, (Re:
desktop publishing, information technology, networking the
organization, connectivity, client-server technology, relational data
base concepts, etc., read the current issue of PC Magazine for the
contemporary particulars,) many of them financed by the US
Government-like the studies initiated by the US Air Force, GAO, or the
IRS, for example.

There is a problem, however. Not one (I have the synopsis of about 20
of the reports-a stack of paper about 7 and a half feet tall,) has
found an increase in productivity, or a substantial reduction in
operational costs.  (I will give you a hint-maybe they are measuring
the wrong thing. Maybe the function of computerization is *_NOT_* an
enhancement in productivity, which was the paradigm of deductive
reasoning applied to organizational efficiency-as envisioned three
centuries ago by Adam Smith theorizing on the pin factory-but as an
electronically mediated-trumpets blair-*_INDUCTIVE_ reasoning process,
as per Peters, Quinn, Senge, Hammer, Champy, Pfeffer, Davidow, Morton,
Collin, Lazier, Fisher, Bostrom, Watson, Kinney, Lipnack, Stamps,
Galegher, Kraut, Egido, Tapscott, Caston, Zuboff, Boone, Cibora,
Metes, Grenier, Greif, Kiesler, Sandler, et al, to name a few.)

I am not a fan of "Business Process Reengineering," (IMHO, it is a new
name for Taylorism, and is only a contemporary extension of his time
motion studies at the turn of the century, IMHO,) but I must admit,
that chapter 5, pages 84-90[1], are well done, and explain the issues
of why one would attempt to "computerize" an organization, and what is
expected, and what should be measured. Any of the above listed authors
also concur, and elaborate. (It is really very simple, how would you
measure the productivity enhancement of installing a telephone system
in an organization?  Think about it. How would you measure it?)

A modern, well run organization is not run by deductive analysis, (in
spite of what HBR purports,) but by inductive analysis, directly from
the top, (usually a committee, since modern enterprises are
sufficiently complex that no one knows all of the particulars of an
organization-re: any of the above authors.) And that endeavor can be
electronically mediated, and measured, (in point of fact, the metric
methodology to do so is more than a century old.)

Now, there is a mailing list to discuss such things. The attached came
out of the Economic Science conference. Interesting that the mailing
list addresses "... [an] interdisciplinary communications forum for
economists, computer scientists, and lawyers," a rather formidable and
diverse set of professions-usually with conflicting
epistemologies. (Needless to say, I find such things interesting.)


[1] "Reengineering the Corporation," Michael Hammer and James Champy,
Harper Business, New York, New York, 1993. Pages 84-90 are well
written, but I take issue, IMHO, with the first four chapters of the
book. IMHO, the first nine chapters of "The Fifth Discipline: The Art
and Practice of the Learning Organization," Peter M. Senge, Doubleday,
New York, New York, 1990, are superior, IMHO, since they deal with an
organizational model that is implemented with real time feedback, and
address continuous, incremental, (ie., marginal,) improvement as the
organizational issue. Both say about the same thing, but Senges is
based more on a formal, scientific basis, than Champy. IMHO. Your
milage may differ.


John Conover,,

Copyright © 1996 John Conover, All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Fri Mar 26 18:56:09 PST 1999 $Id: 961007235650.3492.html,v 1.0 2001/11/17 23:05:50 conover Exp $
Valid HTML 4.0!