icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an ongoing web column by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Is success in the connections you make?

Temporary conclusions on governance of relationships

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2016). Is success in the connections you make? Temporary conclusions on governance of relationships. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 5.12 (December).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2016). Is success in the connections you make? Temporary conclusions on governance of relationships. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 5.12 (December).

London, 11 March 2017 - As more and more mobile and web platforms become the offices and the shops for an increasing quote of the working population all around the world, governance of relationships in the digital spaces becomes an important and crucial topic, in spite of being still often trivialised, reduced to a ‘tick-boxes’ exercise or underestimated by many. There are of course various levels of integration of social media and layers of security, privacy and consumer protection that matter.

Eventually, as a conclusion of this short icm2re series on governance of relationships, I have now to answer the question I was asked by the customer I mentioned in the first article, icm2re 5.6: why it is so difficult that even the best technical savvy computer experts are often reluctant to make the right choice between information security and conformism and inertia, and what could facilitate change in their work over the natural tendency to groupthink and social contagion, including the change needed to save the organisation from major security or confidentiality disasters.

To recap, in the previous six articles I have pointed out possible ways to deal with extremely cohesive teams working with and through technologies of collaboration. The perspective I adopted to look at these issues has undoubtedly been the consultant’s one but I have also talked with other hats I have worn since the mid 90s: the freelance, the self employed and the small business owner.

In icm2re 5.7 I showed positive and negative aspects of groupthink. Cyber security is tightly intertwined and affected by it and by interoperability issues, exposing thousands of digital entrepreneurs and freelance workers to exponential risk of poverty, marginalisation, repeated victimisation and social isolation when - for innumerable possible causes - they stop "going with the flow" of their teams, groups, collectives and communities.

In icm2re 5.8 I introduced a notion, fixity, that I believe is one of the most challenging characteristics of digital environment. I explained how to correct the poor design of platforms that are still in their infancy, often imagined, implemented and commercialised as they were the aseptic and unambiguous systems that work so smoothly within industrial settings and not the messy social and cultural infrastructure populated by human beings, with all their lovely and yet unbearable aliases, avatars, trolls and pets.

I then argued in icm2re 5.9 that if it is true that we are not so good at managing the fuel of this digital economy (that is nothing more than information about ourselves and what we do), it is also possibly because there is a gap or fault in terms of thinking about innovation: looking back at the past twenty years I cannot see other than theoretical propositions mostly entrapped by literary, sociological and philosophical visions and business models. They may be honestly agreeable in some circumstances but the expert practitioner cannot help to see how they were or still are inadequate: romanticised, overoptimistic and, by concessions of their own authors, elaborated with limited scope, expertise and visions in mind. I explained what can be done to compensate such vacuum of theoretical and structural foundations.

In icm2re 5.10 I looked into the dysfunctional ways the media and communication sector have been abusing of the above weaknesses, creating a self-indulging idolatry of fragmented and decontextualised contents, errors and libel in linked data, robotic fakes, algorithmic bullshit, programmatic fetish and all sorts of deceptive, short term opportunistic businesses. These are all essentially a product of what I called fixity of digital contents and profit from the human commitment and need to communicate (it is impossible not to communicate even when asymmetries in human-to-human relationships exist).

In icm2re 5.11 I proposed a solution to the problem of groupthink. It is an example of the essential antidotes or vaccines we can design and develop to sustain more positive workflows so that together with our artefacts and all sensors things and software modeling, we can all become virtually immune to a number of unproductive and unhealthy behaviours, digital conditions and cyber threats.

Eventually, to introduce a final argument, I need to change perspective, and look at these issues of technological changes and governance of relationships from the general point of view of IT Directors, Chief Digital Officers and Senior Programme and Project Managers who work in large organisations, institutions or charities.

Governance of relationships and service engineering

Managers, IT experts, technicians, engineers and end users too, we have all learned to think about work in digital spaces as a matter of processes. In theory, whenever such processes are handled according to professional standards, there should be full capacity in place to prevent conformism and inertia and incentivise people to follow the guidelines.

Service transition, change evaluation, change management, continuity management, problem management, configuration management are some of the formalised processes that - no matter the degree of automation - require human judgements and interventions at various levels to be correctly triggered and handled. They are demanding though. They require time, attention, energy, discussions and often compromising attitude and human decision-making in conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity, emotional discomfort, cognitive dissonance. In a nutshell, they require us to deal with love and fear.

It is not a coincidence that when a matter of costs and savings arise, continual service improvement processes, information policies and governance are treated as thick-boxes exercises or just disregarded as not indispensable, with excuses of short-termism, emergency or other exceptions to the standards. At the end of the day, what somebody consider an appalling preventable incident can be seen as just a minor problem by somebody else.

In turn, we can see that project and process standards have been designed and formalised with an assumption of compact, conformist and rational human behaviours, whereas most of the times the best and safest service engineering and management efforts and results come from passion, creativity, capacity, intelligence and discipline (that means we need to love the rules up to the point of breaking them to make them better and solve new problems, not breaking them for the sake of volatile teenagers rebellion).

Unfortunately, there is not yet a great awareness that governance of relationships in the digital world requires such level of attention and care, authority and compassion towards our own designed processes and procedures. And when it is, it often tends to reward personal commitment that, as we saw in icm2re 5.10, is quite a dangerous and gambling thing in itself because commitment can create both excellence and perversion at the same time, often equally distant from an optimal arrangement of an existing process into something new or different to respond to new situations or threats.

Our inadequate or immature culture in process management has left space to further myths about people power in solving problems and create wealth, such as the myth that unicorns can develop in such environment. The concepts of ecosystems and hubs have taken over the simple idea of teams, projecting an automatic expectation of spontaneity, functionality, effectiveness. But just because there is more and more volume velocity and variety of connections, empowered by ICT technologies, in our ego-networks that does not mean there is necessarily more intelligence, or more accuracy, control, quality of results or happiness - you name it.

All in all, there is chance that governance of relationships in the digital world is still a matter of art, as it is in the physical one.