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Information Management Methodology: Part 2 – Are you sure Kelly Johnson started this way?

Last week I started documenting the “what” with an eye towards the “how” I’ve used during past engagements. This post will not be the “how” but will list some of the methods I’ve assembled through the years that will eventually become the “how”.

In the previous post I mentioned listing the forms and other artifacts in an enterprise or quanta as I call these. I’ve used an abstract term, quanta, for these collections of information as the physical or electronic equivalents bring other biases and aberrations. I’m only interested in the pure semantics and relationships of this information. However, to get to these I first have to collect the artifacts.

The technique I’ve used is much the same as those created by Taylor a century ago; observation. My twist on observation is that I typically submerge myself into the processes that operate on this information. When I designed systems for the management of aerospace tubing and wire harnesses, I followed the process. However, I followed it from the inside. What I mean by that was I became the tube. Not is the physical sense. I put a post-it note on my forehead and walked the entire process; from when the engineer first was assigned the task to when it rolled of the assembly line and was installed in the aircraft.

Mind you I got a lot of laughs from all those concern. Some of the management I dealt with was sure I was two steps away from a rubber room. However, by walking the process I got more direct information and an appreciation of the context of how the information was created and handled. This is something that is missing from only examining a data dictionary or other sterile reports that contains information about information. True I will eventually remove some of the attributes as I create my quanta, but that information will be saved and associated with the quanta later.

When I had completed by little trip around the corporation gather this information I charted it out, all the flows to/from, activity steps, state changes and name changes. Once I had a comprehensive diagram I invited representatives from all the groups associated with the information I just collected to review. At that time White Boards were not as ubiquitous as they are now. Instead I had access to a HP plotter, so I created a forty-five foot plot of the information’s journey in the corporation from birth to death.

The interesting thing about the meeting was; first people for the first time –may be ever—got a comprehensive view of the entire journey, second discussions emerged asking why certain information was needed or why it wasn’t available. In a short three hours –the meeting was scheduled for only one, but people did not want to leave—I had a marked up diagram that not only had more detail (business rules, etc.) about the information but on the fly the group determined how to reduce the process steps, cycle time and non-value add information.

This short project synopsis illustrates the first objective. Get intimate with the information. Analysts that handle the information at a distance miss details and insights. This was illustrated by the fact that all of the reviewers came away with a greater appreciation of what it took to design and manufacture a tube. Prior to that it was just data passing around, after this point it was representative of a product in some stage of creation. It was the interface between people and the task they performed.

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