Ambiguity

Ambiguity is present in virtually all real-life situations and are those ‘situations in which we do not have sufficient information to quantify the stochastic nature of the problem. It is a lack of knowledge as
to the ‘basic rules of the game’ where cause-and-effect are not understood and there is no precedent for
making predictions as to what to expect

Ambiguity is often used, especially in the context of VUCA, to cover situations in situations that have:

  • Doubt about the nature of cause and effect
  • Little to no historical information to predict the outcome
  • Difficult to forecast or plan for

It is important to answer whether there are risks of lack of experience and predictability that might affect the situation, and interrogate our unknown unknowns.

People are ambiguity averse in that they prefer situations in which probabilities are perfectly known to situations in which they are unknown.

Ambiguity is best resolved by experimentation.

Levels of Uncertainty

Walker et al. (2010) developed a taxonomy of “levels of uncertainty”, ranging from Level 1 to Level 4,
which is useful in problem-solving:

  • Level 1 uncertainties are defined as relatively minor – as representing “a clear enough future” set within a “single system model” whereby outcomes can be estimated with reasonable accuracy;
  • Level 2 uncertainties display “alternative futures” but, again, within a single system in which probability estimates can be applied with confidence.

Levels 3 and 4 uncertainties are described as representing “deep uncertainty”.

  • Level 3 uncertainties are described as “a multiplicity of plausible futures”, in which multiple systems interact, but in which we can identify “a known range of outcomes”
  • Level 4 uncertainties lead us to an “unknown future” in which we don’t understand the system: we know only that there is something, or are some things, that we know we don’t know.

This hierarchy can be useful to help us think carefully about whether the uncertainty behind a problem can be defined in terms of a Level 1 prediction, with parameters for variation. Or, can it be resolved as group of Level 2 possibilities with probability estimates for each? Can the issue only be understood as a set of different Level 3 futures, each with a clear set of defined outcomes, or only by means of a Level 4 statement to the effect that we know only that there is something crucial that we don’t yet know?

There is often no clear or unanimous view of whether a particular uncertainty is set at a specific level. Uncertainty should always be considered at the deepest proposed level, unless or until those that propose this level can be convinced by an evidence-based argument that it should be otherwise.

Sources

  • Walker, W.E., Marchau, V.A.W.J. and Swanson, D. (2010) “Addressing Deep Uncertainty using Adaptive Policies: Introduction to Section 2”, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 77: 917–23.

Quality Book Shelf – Data Story

Every quality professional needs to read Data Story: Explain Data and Inspire Action through Story by Nancy Duarte.

This book does an amazing job of giving you the tools of transforming a boring management review into a compelling narrative. Following the step-by-step recommendations will give you a blueprint for effective telling the story of your organizations quality maturity and help you execute into action.

For example, this table is the start of an amazing section about crafting a narrative that then goes into an amazing discussion on structuring a slide presentation to get this done.

 Argumentative Writing (Logical Approach)Persuasive Writing (Emotional Appeal)Writing a Recommendation (Blend of Both)
PurposeConstruct compelling evidence that your viewpoint is backed by the truth and is factualPersuade the audience to agree with your perspective and take action on your viewpointUse the data available, plus intuition, to form a point of view that requires action from your organization
ApproachDeliver information from both sides of the issue by choosing one side as valid and causing others to doubt the counterclaimDeliver information and opinions on only one side of the issue, and develop a strong connection with a target audienceDevelop a story supported by evidence ad also include any counterarguments your audience may have, so tat they feel you have considered their perspective
AppealsUse logical appears to support claims with solid examples, expert opinions, data, and facts. The goal is to be right, not necessarily take actionUse emotional appeals to convince others of your opinion and feelings, so the audience will move forward on your perspectiveStructure the appeal as a story, support your recommendation with data and solid evidence that sticks by adding meaning
ToneProfessional, tactful, logicalPersonal, passionate, emotionalAppropriate tone based on the audience

Another great takeaway is when Nancy presents results of her extensive analysis on word patterns in speeches, right down to the choice of effective verbs, conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs, interjections, and rhetorical questions. The choice of “process or performance verbs” is connected to whether the recommended course of action is continuity, change or termination.

This is a book that keeps giving.

I found it so invaluable that I bought a copy for everyone on my team.

Management Review – a Structured Analysis of Reality

What is Management Review?

ISO9001:2015 states “Top management shall review the organization’s quality management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment with the strategic direction of the organization.”

Management review takes inputs of system performance and converts it to outputs that drive improvement.

Just about every standard and guidance aligns with the ISO9001:2015 structure.

The Use of PowerPoint in Management Review

Everyone makes fun of PowerPoint, and yet it is still with us. As a mechanism for formal communication it is the go-to form, and I do not believe that will change anytime soon.

One of the best pieces of research on PowerPoint and management review is Kaplan’s examination of PowerPoint slides used in a manufacturing firm. Kaplan found that generating slides was “embedded in the discursive practices of strategic knowledge production” and made up “part of the epistemic machinery that undergirds the know-ledge production culture.” Further, “the affordances of PowerPoint,” Kaplan pointed out, “enabled the difficult task of collaborating to negotiate meaning in an uncertain environment, creating spaces for discussion, making recombinations possible, [and] allowing for adjustments as ideas evolved”. She concluded that PowerPoint slide decks should be regarded not as merely effective or ineffective reports but rather as an essential part of strategic decision making.

Kaplan’s findings are not isolated, there is a broad wealth of relevant research in the fields of genre and composition studies as well as research on material objects that draw similar conclusions. Powerpoint, as a method of formal communication, can be effective.

Management Review as Formal Communication

Management review is a formal communication and by understanding how these formal communications participate in the fixed and emergent conditions of knowledge work as prescribed, being-composed, and materialized-texts-in-use, we can understand how to better structure our knowledge sharing.

Management review mediates between Work-As-Imagined and Work-As-Done.

As-Prescribed

The quality management reviews have “fixity” and bring a reliable structure to the knowledge-work process by specifying what needs to become known and by when, forming a step-by-step learning process.

As-Being-Composed

Quality management always starts with a plan for activities, but in the process of providing analysis through management review, the organization learns much more about the topic, discovers new ideas, and uncover inconsistencies in our thinking that cause us to step back, refine, and sometimes radically change our plan. By engaging in the writing of these presentations we make the tacit knowledge explicit.

A successful management review imagines the audience who needs the information, asks questions, raises objections, and brings to the presentation a body of experience and a perspective that differs from that of the party line. Management review should be a process of dialogue that draws inferences and constructs
relationships between ideas, apply logic to build complex arguments, reformulate ideas, reflects on what is
already known, and comes to understand the material in a new way.

As-Materialized

Management review is a textually mediated conversation that enables knowledge integration within and
across groups in, and outside of, the organization. The records of management review are focal points around which users can discuss what they have learned, discover diverse understandings, and depersonalize debate. Management review records drive the process of incorporating the different domain specific
knowledge of various decision makers and experts into some form of systemic group knowledge and applies that knowledge to decision making and action.

Sources

  • Alvesson, M. (2004). Knowledge work and knowledge-intensive firms. Oxford University Press.
  • Bazerman, C. (2003). What is not institutionally visible does not count: The problem of making activity assessable, accountable, and plannable. In C. Bazerman & D. Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/writing societies: Research from activity perspectives (pp. 428–482). WAC Clearinghouse
  • Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. Jossey-Bass
  • Kaplan, S. (2015). Strategy and PowerPoint: An inquiry into the epistemic culture and machinery of strategy making. Organization Science, 22, 320–346.
  • Levitin, D. J. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. Penguin
  • Mengis, J. (2007). Integrating knowledge through communication: The case of experts and decision makers. In Proceedings of the 2007 International Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Capabilities (pp. 699–720). OLKC. Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wbs/conf/olkc/archive/olkc2/papers/mengis.pdf

Attributable within a Process

Attributable is part of ALCOA that tells us that it should be possible to identify the individual or computerized system that performed the recorded task. The need to document who performed the task / function, is in part to demonstrate that the function was performed by trained and qualified personnel. This applies to changes made to records as well: corrections, deletions, changes, etc.

This means that records should be signed and dated using a unique identifier that is attributable to the author. Where author means the individual who created or recorded the data.

Understanding what role the individual is playing in the task is critical. There are basically six: Executor, Preparer, Checker, Verifier, Reviewer and Approver.

The Six Primary Roles