THE WELCH COMPANY
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111-2496
415 781 5700
October 4, 2000
04 00067 61 00100401
Mr. Eric Armstrong
1200 Dale Avenue #100
Mountain View, CA 94040
Intelligence is Fun, Solves Huge Needs
Finding Customers for Knowledge Management|
on September 27 asked why discussion has slowed
on the DKR project in light of the huge need for better knowledge capability.
The next day, Eugene reported that project
objectives are now well understood,
based on meetings you and others had with Doug.
Eugene plans to explain this understanding, and further
advised that production work can commence on the OHS.
Since the team adopted the
CDS requirements you prepared as the OHS on June 15, your call to
start with an email deliverable can proceed.
Several tasks may expedite progress...
- Develop a rough production schedule for implementing your OHS
requirements. What's first, what's second, what's concurrent, etc.
Estimate approximate number of folks that might be needed and how long
you expect each task will require. Indicate the skills needed for the
tasks, and where the team can get the skills in an economy that has a
low unemployment rate.
This will begin to form a schedule and budget, which can be used to
demonstrate ability to perform that justifies funding, per
on March 24.
Coordinate with Paul Fernhout and other contributors on using the
Termite production method
he suggested on August 31, to engage people committed to solving big
problems without immediate remuneration and guidance.
- Explain three (3) ways the deliverable will improve email, and the
estimated cost savings from using the improved capability.
- Identify a specific huge need this improved email will address, and
explain incremental improvement you expect people will gain in solving
the need by adopting the advantages set out under para 2. For example,
you and others have mentioned energy as something the DKR can help
solve. How will this occur?
On a more general level, the letter to Henry van Eykan (also, submitted to the
team) on September 20, tried to focus on an issue you raised on February 27, of
defining a customer.
While the DKR project is not constrained entirely by
market objectives, you observed on February 27 that project deliverables will
compete for users, and so this deserves early attention.
The threshold question in a full employment economy is...
If people are having fun going to meetings, traveling, and earning a
living using familiar work methods, the question arises whether even a "huge
need" is enough for people to work faster, smarter and cheaper, rather than
easier, especially, if it requires front-end investment to learn a stronger
On January 20 you cited the
as an urgent need for better
knowledge technology. True, the price of gas is nearing record highs, but
there is not an actual shortage we experience in our lives. Since earnings are
up, the extra cost does not seem to present the sense of urgency you cited on
January 20. Later you observed that people need to
new tools in order to discover the tools are actually better, leading to wider
acceptance. Along the same vein on June 14 you reported that engineers often
resist new tools.
Like CEOs and all of us, they want to improve earnings by
getting up earlier and working harder using what they already know, because
that seems easier at the moment than spending several months learning to work
smarter, in order to save several years solving the energy problem, improving
and so on. As well, on April 20,
there was a report that the
did not use new tools they created,
because it was easier to work in familiar ways.
You have noted that new technologies must be learned in 20
minutes to an hour, otherwise people are unwilling to invest the time to
discover how to save time and money.
This practice was characterized as
looking for easy diggings
in a report
on the Oakland Harbor project in 1997. We are all attracted by fools
gold, because often real gold is initially not pretty, you have to clean it
up, and it requires more than 20 minutes to find. Pilot testing sounds great,
but 20 minutes to an hour isn't enough time to find the motherload for
better productivity, earnings and stock prices.
This leads to several Knowledge Management dilemmas...
- How can benefits of
that are typically deferred for
weeks, months, sometimes occurring even years later, be identified by
the 20 minutes to an hour people have available for pilot testing a
next generation Knowledge Management technology?
Andy Grove, like
recommends experimenting to improve; but, if the
experiment only lasts 20 minutes, then the tools adopted will
cause harm, like fools gold,
as seen from email, cell phones, fax, Palm Pilots.
- Need, even
which you cite, does not translate into market demand, if the need is
otherwise being met in some manner with familiar processes. People are
willing to accept problems, including reduced earnings, conflict and
loss, in order to avoid the burden of learning something new. Drucker
makes a similar point that new methods have to be 10 times better to
change work practice. What Drucker does not mention is that nobody
wants to go first to pilot test in order to separate fools gold
from real gold. So, even if a method is 100 times better, Drucker's
rule fails when there are plenty of sunshine profits. In that case, as
now, people demand things that are
regardless of the need. The only exception is
overwhelming need, as in a war setting. If people are immediately
threatened, we can all pull together and focus on improving
Since we don't have a war setting, discussion of need, must, therefore,
be accompanied by
analysis of wants and desires in order to identify market demand. In
particular we have to address Andy Grove's observation that we like to work on
familiar things in familiar ways, regardless of need, as evidenced by
As long as sunshine profits are available to buy-off mistakes, it
seems easier at the moment to spend a few billion dollars, squander good will,
and so forth, than to spend a few months to improve the work so that mistakes
are reduced. It's a dilemma.
Here is another angle. Several studies have shown that
technology reduces productivity
of management and other knowledge work. Technology
saves time and reduces cost when incorporated into mechanical
production settings. Adding intelligence to product assembly, for example,
reduces the impact of management bumbling; but, it increases bumbling
when put in the hands of people designing and managing things, like
assembly equipment, and IT products.
The email problems you cite, and recent NASA
difficulties with the Mars program illustrate how
email reduces productivity
and increases cost astronomically in knowledge work.
This suggests that procedures people use to
identify neat and cool technology, based on pilot testing for 20 minutes to an
hour, are not effective for adding intelligence to management.
Therefore, for the DKR to be effective it must solve the energy problem
by improving manufacturing tasks. But, if we try to help people working on the
problem, the evidence indicates all of us will refuse to be helped, and the
technology we are willing to adopt based on 20 minutes to an hour of review,
actually makes the problems worse.
You have noted for example that adding
boggles the mind,
and people don't like that, regardless of how big the problem is that may
need some initial boggling in order to maintain alignment with requirements.
Suppose the government allocates $20B to solve the energy problem or to
reduce the crisis of
that make going to the hospital more risky than
automobile and aviation accidents combined, according to a study last year.
Will anyone call to get the CDS program to improve email? Most likely
they will spend the $20B doing what they already know, like drill for oil,
build a hospital, neither of which address underlying issues.
In other words, discussion may have quieted on the DKR team in recent
weeks because there has not been a showing of how your CDS program, that
boggles the mind, (I know I am guilty of that too), will help people working on
huge needs do a better job, and, further, that people will gain sufficient
reward in 20 minutes to an hour to continue use, so that the big benefits of
new knowledge can be realized days, weeks and years later, and thereon
reinforce the original decision to use a new method, and endorse it for wider
use. This is summed up as...
Deferred rewards are a hard sell!
The challenge is made more
clear by Henry's letter the other day worrying that
adding intelligence to management takes too much diligence.
While we can argue that technology reduces diligence needed to do the work, the
question remains, if there is a huge need, why is diligence an issue?
Ordinarily it is an asset in designing a bridge or a
computer chip to have diligence.
Recall your report on May 17 about
benefits of diligence on a
project in Texas some years ago.
This is not an isolated case. On May 8 you noted
better understanding resulted
from diligence to
analyse work on the DKR project; and on April 24 you expected that the DKR
project could be expedited, if
diligence had been exercised to capture daily working information
on the earlier
Benefits of better understanding are not limited to high tech; they
are ubiquitous. Everyone demands diligence, for example, to align
the manufacture of tires and automobiles with requirements. When
lack of alignment gains visibility, the refrain rings out across the land
for diligence. Responding to
protests that executives, managers and engineers don't have enough
time for diligence,
time to pass emergency legilsation requiring diligence to
maintain alignment, report lack of alignment. and restore alignment quickly,
regardless of cost. Reporters and investigators research exhaustively to
discover lack of diligence that caused alignment to fail. Fines
are levied and increased, people are
fired, possibly jailed, because lack of diligence is negligence. It is a fraud,
and can be a crime because it causes
loss of life,
in addition to loss of
treasure and time.
Clearly, there seems to be strong demand for diligence to correct
However, the lack of
concomitant demand for adding intelligence to the work in order to save lives,
time and money
presents an equally clear dilemma. How can
technology be deployed that
reduces the level of diligence, i.e., makes it faster and easier,
to maintain alignment, so that calamity and crises
are avoided, as reported to Henry on September 26?
We can further argue that the biggest problem, overshadowing all others,
that drives management toward entropy, threatening to
into a morass of bumbling, due to success accomplishing the
centuries old dream of getting more information. We are innovating ourselves
into ignorance, making communication the biggest risk in enterprise, because
human span of attention cannot maintain alignment under conditions of expanding
complexity. We can argue and argue, but people are not moved to action because
problems in the microcosm are beyond span of attention. Twenty minutes to an
hour for learning how technology aligns daily work with requirements, and takes
less diligence to do it,
is not sufficient to arrest the magnitude of the threat caused by negligence;
nor is it enough time to
grasp the huge opportunity that awaits from gaining control over lower levels
of organic structure in the
of the human mind. It's a dilemma.
Let's then look at the issue differently: not as how much diligence it
takes, but how much
it is to add
to management; saving time and money are just incidental extras.
Like playing a piano, while the music is not audible, there is a strong
mental satisfaction from quickly and easily connecting information into
continuous arrangements that align daily work with objectives, requirements and
commitments. There is added pleasure anticipating future benefits from being
effective in meetings, calls and email, which is increased and reinforced as
events occur throughout the day. Landauer says that
is a big motivator, so having fun and being effective might work, where talking
about big needs and diligence seems to fall on deaf ears.
As well, getting millions of people to have fun adding intelligence to
daily work, will solve big problems and prevent small problems from becoming
big, even if people do not pay attention to huge needs.
What do you say? Let's have fun!
THE WELCH COMPANY