Re:Organizational Integration LO1231

Jim Michmerhuizen (
Tue, 16 May 1995 00:40:48 +0059 (EDT)

Replying to LO1037 --

Um-hm. This is beginning to touch on something about information flow
that's been tickling at the back of my mind for a while now. It has to
do with the operation of "summarizing" information. Formally, given some
arbitrary set of facts, one could define numerous kinds of transformations
of the set, projections, relations, and so on. Many such transforms can
be defined without "going outside" of the given set.

But - and this seems a paradox - the one kind of transformation that
resists all my efforts at formalization is the operation of "simplifying"
or "summarizing" such a set. Which facts will I drop from my "summary"?
That depends on who I'm summarizing for, why I'm summarizing at all, what
other information is available or already known to me and to my intended

In fact this operation of "summarizing" a body of information cannot be
defined solely in terms of the information being summarized.

No man is an island -- and neither is any single fact.

Jim Michmerhuizen
: : : : : : : Ideas are cheap; : : \ : : : :
: : : : : Good ideas don't cost any more than lousy ones. : : : : :
: : : It's distinguishing them that's expensive. : : :

Host's Note: Jim has inserted additional comments between
sections of the prev msg; see below...

On Wed, 3 May 1995 wrote:

> Replying to LO973-
> Michael McMaster writes:
> >Things_ aren't complex . They are what they are. They become
> >"complex" in our attempts to understand them. The complexity
> >arises from the level and context of our analysis. At one level,
> >say a surface one, they will be simple.
> I completely agree. There is nothing in the external world which is
> either complex or simple. That is a concept of the mind. It is up
> to an observer to label a system as either complex or simple, based
> on the observer's internal understanding or "model" of the system.
> This, I think, provides the foundation for judging the relative
> usefulness of models.
> >Complexity in information cannot be managed in the traditional sense.
> >Complexity in its more general senses and its specific uses (such as
> >complex adaptive systems) cannot be managed in the traditional sense.
> >Management, in the traditional sense, means to control flows to
> >produce intended and predictable results.
[ ...snip... ]
> Due to their structured way of receiving information, a vertical
> style management structure will literally not be able to notice
> certain changes in the environment. As the operating environment
> changes, the specific types of information that travel up the chain, that is, in "summaries"

> become less relevant. Management only has an inkling that something
> is wrong, but they can't quite put their finger on it. Over time,
> as the environment changes, and the organization doesn't, the
> organization appears to be "rigid" by the majority of its employees.
> To improve horizontal communication, there needs to be a different
> outlook on managing variety. In fact this whole notion of employee
> empowerment brings up a multitude of hidden subjects. If top
> management in an organization is set on empowering employees, and
> reducing the level of decision making to lower levels in the
> hierarchy, this inherently means there is less to do in the upper
> levels of hierarchy. An upper level middle manager's role consists
> of passing information he/she deems important up and down the line,
Something here grabs me. Let's think of the fundamental axiom of
information theory -- since the word is sitting right there in front of
us. Informally paraphrased, "the importance (or meaningfulness) of a
thing ( = symbol, token, concept, event) is inversely proportional to its
frequency." If I'm one of those managers, I've immediately got a dilemma:
preparing this information that's supposed to be passing up and down
through my office, do I try to neutrally "summarize" (which, as we've
seen, isn't at all trivial) or do I "maximize information content" which
effectively turns me into a journalist reporting only what is new and
unexpectedly different. Look what nasty things happen -- we've all seen
them -- when the daily news gets interpreted as though it were a neutral
summary, or a summary gets interpreted as today's hot news.

This I think is an insoluble problem. To paraphrase one of my own sigs,
there are more different contexts for facts than there are facts. Isn't
a lot of what we're after, with this LO stuff, attempting to cut a Gordian
information knot?

> and setting direction for his/her immediate subordinates. He/she is
> no longer concerned with technical decisions. If the level of
> decision making is reduced, the upper level middle manager no longer
> needs to set direction. This change also allows a high tech
> information system to pass information up and down the chain.
Suppose we say: we're trying to shorten the distance between the information
and the action. Like a sort of tribe: the one who notices, responds. (As
opposed to the one who notices calls the boss over, who runs to the office
to fill out a funny-stuff report, so that ... well you know the story.) And
suppose we succeed. If we succeed, we notice right away that people don't
have to spend as much time making reports or reading them any more. Somehow
the information flow is altered; seems like there's a lot less need for all
those elaborate presentations that we used to have...