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Possibly folks in the psychology department and related fields at Stanford could provide an assist.
What probably has not been examined, but needs attention, is the rate of growth in errors in a project from inception as the number of participants and subjects grows. I suspect there is an exponential growth, like a cancer, most of it hidden from participants, since as you note, not all errors are critical. The Air Force Institute of Technology published a paper in 1975 that cited an entropic cost model which postulated that over time large information systems trend toward entropy. I summarize the concept from experience as management by "guess and gossip." A friend calls it "feel good management." Contacts at Intel, IBM, PG&E and so on, talk about getting 70 email a day. My "Feel Good Management" friend, who is a founder of an IT firm, suggested I develop a
Mr. Paul Teicholz Page 2 of 2 Integrated Facilities Program Construction Engineering & Management Program Civil Engineering Department Stanford University Subject: Communication Metrics Calculating Management Requirements Coordinating with Stanford teamcalculation to show the rate of entropy in the information base, as a way to illustrate cost/benefits of adding a metric to communications so errors are discovered and fixed before they get into the information stream. He feels this would help executives overcome ignorance, fear and denial of a new work role to meet the exigencies of a new work environment, or what I call a "New World Order."
As I mentioned in my letter to Ray, initially, I would like to ground the analysis on published studies of differences in understandings among groups in common events like meetings. Ten or 20 people attend a meeting and are interviewed afterward. All tell a different tale. What is the percent of material divergence. How many people to they tell? What is the rate of divergence as a function of the number of participants, length of meeting, number of subjects, commitments. How much time do they spend arguing about who said what to whom the last time, and so on? What is the impact of investing time to "manage" information and preparing for meetings. As the number of errors goes up, how does this impact preparation time that then leads to more errors. I explain this general spiral toward a "black hole" problem in my paper "New World Order Needs Old Time Religion," but we need to quantify the problem with some solid research in order to overcome the power of denial in "Feel Good Management" practice.
So, if you can provide a lead or support on these matters, I would appreciate your help. Please advise if you would like to see the Corps of Engineers report on Communication Metrics. If you have other ideas on collaborating, I am open to hearing about them but am not sure how much time I will have available.
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cc Ray Levitt for information