From status report to discovery tool

Weblogs as status reports – It can work but the barrier is cultural not technological. (SOURCE:Rands In Repose: Status Reports 2.0 via McGee's Musings)- We've tried over the last 2 years to replace status reports with blogs at a e-commerce company I do consulting for. Success has been mixed. Even though most of the people are engineering staff (i.e. technical people who should have no problem with the 'geekiness' of today's blogging tools), getting them to document in real time what they do has been more difficult than I anticipated. Transparency, even internal status transparency, is a new and hard thing for today's business culture. I think this will shift in time as people become more used to the idea of making themselves more transparent. Not only will the tools get easier to use, but the idea of being transparent (internally at least) will become more and more common just as the idea and culture of email took a while to take hold. Remember the executives who got their email printed out by their secretaries? Just as this is perceived as being quaint today, so too will today's resistance to internal transperancy be perceived as quaint in the future.


There needs to be some creative incentive for individuals to write stuff down. For the Wiki, there is the promise that if you write it down, maybe you can avoid future lame redundant questions. For the weblog, the timely conversational style of the medium keeps the content focused on news of the moment and that's really the question; is news of the moment interesting to an engineering organization?

What I'm curious about is if anyone has had any success using web-based collaboration tools as a means of augmenting or replacing status reports. I know Wikis have successfully emerged as semi-structured information repositories… have they evolved into anything? How in the world can I get out of writing Status Reports?


[Roland Tanglao's Weblog]

Roland, of course, is spot on about the problems being cultural. And with the notion that the transition is becoming more comfortable with transparency. Time to move David Brin's The Transparent Society to the head of the reading queue.

My current hypothesis is that you have to start with the individual knowledge worker and work from the bottom up. What I haven't cracked to my own satisfaction yet is what the organizational support requirements need to be.

Current status reporting requirements are still rooted in industrial assumptions about projects and processes. Key to those assumptions is the notion that variation is bad. Things are supposed to go as planned. In a knowledge economy those assumptions are inverted. You still need to plan. But now the plans are to help you recognize which variations are important, which are trivial, which are bad, and which are good. Status reporting should become more about discovering and understaning the implications in those variations.