Grooming System Thinkers Summary LO1366
Wed, 24 May 1995 14:06:05 -0500

My thanks to the people who responded to my posting about
'grooming systems thinkers' in the context of information
systems design. In this note I will recap some of their
comments. If anything on this lists piques your curiosity,
send me a note and I will supply the name and address of the
contributor (if I can).

"Your company sounds like mine" came from a couple of people.
Jonathon Sachs suggested making design _everyone's_ business
and thereby perhaps reducing a potential division along
we/they lines. (Let me clarify my earlier note a little --
the goal is to create a group of people, recognized by their
co-workers as top-notch people, to whom the others or their
managers can refer especially tricky bits or complex
situations. The goal is _not_ to absolve anyone from having
to think while they work!)

Eric Kirkendall suggests that, once we can do world-class
design, we will finally discover that we too often design
solutions to _the wrong problem_ because of failed analysis.

Several people commented on the need to develop skills
variously described as 'soft skills' or 'people skills',
specifically including Facilitation, Group Dynamics, Meeting
Management, and Consulting. Mindy Beale suggested that the
development of a 'culture' (placing high value on dialog with
an emphasis on sharing learning) would receive a major boost
from having the group co-located to improve 'chance'
encounters. Rachel Silber offered the idea that the group
pool their collective knowledge by creating patterns or
frameworks from their individual experiences. Several
suggested that the group attend a course or two together to
gain some shared understanding and shared vocabulary.
Someone else suggested using a tool such as the Meyers-Briggs
to help the group discover things about themselves.

Several people offered warnings about the nature of the
attitude change this will almost certainly entail -- moving
from "I have value to the organization because of what I
alone know" to "I have value to the organization because of
to whom I am connected, the nature of those relationships,
and what we know together". Someone suggested this might be
paralleled to grass-roots efforts, more easily done by
winning people one-on-one like a community organizer.

It sounds from Steve Winstead's comments as though Shell Oil
in Houston TX has already invented this wheel, or one very
similar. He offered assistance (from casual phone calls to
formal consulting, as his group gears up to create a
consulting practice in IT enablement/IT restructuring) to
share what they have learned. You can reach Steve at (713)
245-3889 or email

John Warfield's book (A Science of Generic Design) offers a
comprehensive background on the issues surrounding
problem-solving / design, and follows through with concrete
methods and techniques to further the process of making
'design' into a 'science'. I hope to use his ideas as the
foundation for our efforts.

Other theories received support, as well. These included
Cooperative Learning Theory, Socio-technical theory, Job
Characteristics Theory, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Several people suggested membership in professional
organizations to expand the network. Several also suggested
visits to other organizations, to get first hand contact with
something _really_ 'not invented here'!

In other categories, I received specific recommendations for
these things:

Flawless Consulting by ?
The Fifth Discipline by Senge
The Wisdom of Teams by ?
The Digital Workplace by Gratham and Nichols
Breakthrough Thinking by ?
Reengineering the Corporation by Hammer and Champy
The New Economics by Deming
The Design of Everyday Things by Norman
Design for Success by Rouse
Tog on Interface by Tognazzini
Debugging the Development Process by ?
Controlling Software Projects by DeMarco
? by Goldstein and Alger

Succeeding as a Clandestine Agent by Allen in Comma. of the
ACM, May 95

Anything by Joel Barker

Making it Mac from Apple
First Person: Donald A Norman

Art of User Interface Design


The Ecology of Work Conference, June 5-8
contact Tom Chase (603) 942 8189

Usability Walk (This works best with smallish (10 or so
people) groups. The idea here is to walk around the office,
hotel, street, whereever, and list all the usability
positives and negatives you can find.)

Teacher/Learner (Ask for two volunteers. One will be the
teacher, the other the learner. The teacher can only use the
word "yes" to reinforce the learning. On purpose, the
learner is vaguely told that they are to learn from the
teacher. The teacher is told to use the word yes to teach
"standing on one foot".)

Michael Ayers        (612) 733-5690      FAX (612) 737-7718
IT Education Svcs/3M Center 224-2NE-02/PO Box 33224/St Paul MN 55133-3224
All ideas expressed in this note represent the author's thinking
and do not represent the positions of any organizations -- or --
I take credit for the implications, you do for the inferences!