Monday, January 19, 2004

Trust and homeostasis

I can feel the energy pulsing through these exchanges and that tells me that the issues and the engagement with them are real. Let me state clearly where my stuff is.

Any piece of new and therefore startling information depends on some level of trust for it to be communicated at all. Since time immemorial there has been irrefutable evidence for things that people felt able to pay no attention to. I guess at one level that is a statement of Kuhn's paradigm stuff. At another level we can see it in police operations and what makes them ineffective. So I think what is new in our situation is that we have abandoned an inauthentic trust in management judgment and in the checks and balances that operate on it and are prepared to countenance new evidence. I don't think people are likely to trust a "solution" but I do think that people will be able to see a dramatic increase in the quality of evidence that can be brought to bear.

Precisely because of the "jolt" people get put in a position where they look for comfort to either something they can understand for themselves of to expert judgement. Trevor raises the question of how people can understand for themselves whether some system or other is actually based on something that is grounded for them. The power that management have abused is largely the power to present a position to others, and I want to understand how this same trap can be avoided with a different system. We will always have designers and presenters and checkers whatever they are called.

The concept that I am most comfortable with is homeostasis and the implications of Ashby's law for elements of it. So it is certainly possible to set up as in VSM a set of conditions for system stability, related ultimately to system purpose. It seems to me that explaining the cases where homestatic equilibrium is lost and management intervention is necessary is where evidence comes in. If I want to have confidence in management I want to have confidence that today's agenda has a rationale I can buy into, not that six months ago the company was sent into a black hole.

So my concerns are in how to develop real communication between management and interested parties about what is going on. And I want to press our systemic understandings in that direction.