Monday, January 28, 2008

Middle and out

This little blurb is part of a continuing pro-log leading to explicit analysis of the problems related to earned value in the situation of globalized organizations, abstracted models, and a gaming-based ontology.

Most engineers will be familiar with the concept of the middle. Good projects work middle-out.

To see this, let's use the computer as an example. In the modern era when computers are everywhere (are we tired of ubiquitous, yet?), we can think of the interfaces between hardware and software. At the boundary, there are always problems. Who drives? Software? Hardware?

In a project that is defining a new 'system' both the hardware and the software must gel at some point. Of course, the latter is more malleable (we like to think; changes have consequences, though). But, hardware can change. Analysis at the middle-out position has allowed successful convergence many times. Though, one must remember that iterations may be necessary in order to really optimize a design.

Now, in projects, middle-out makes a lot of sense as a means to describe what goes on between levels and organizations. It is hard to attain such a balance for many reasons, not the least of which is that the analytical demands that need to be met are operationally-based from current work (when doing something for the first few times).

Systems engineering was developed to look at these types of issues. But, it needs to work with a whole lot of other disciplines.

In modeling, we like to use top-down and bottom-up. That top-down world loves power, and the exhibitions that result through the use of power. The bottom-up? Well it's not so easily described given the morass of the pits.

That is, the top-down involves a movement from the one to the many. The particular spread as things fan out can vary widely. Throughout the modern realm, there have been experiments with depth and breadth of this fanning.

Perhaps, the emphasis on the top-down has come about through its efficacy in many situations. It has been shown to work if there is a sufficient number of willing effectors (with characteristics as being healthy, cared for, etc.) at the levels below the top-most node (CEO, etc.).

That brings up an aside that the top-down view that doesn't try to keep its lower levels healthy is more than suspect; it is the major bane preventing an economic expansion that is our right. To wit, a whole lot of problems related to pay (hugh imbalance), motivation (hands-on needs to get respect back - how do we do this?), etc.

Also, technology requires a different balance. The top-down view does not, nor can it, know detail (SOX notwithstanding, which is basically financial in motivation). This is something to look at; abstraction has a purpose; things-in-themselves, well, some have purpose prior to any of our wanglings, but they can out-rule abstractions.

So, what are we to do? Well, for one thing, be aware of the dynamics and manage accordingly.
At the top, let the Board of Directors be more than figure-heads. Get a CTO involved who really knows and isn't just a gamer. Elsewhere, don't expect that the military model of command-control applies everywhere.

At the bottom (and between), work for innovation and trust. Preserve performers. Provide mechanisms for continuing improvements. Nothing new. Except, don't expect to be a company that people will flock to if you don't apply your principles (don't just talk them).

In a new product, who would support the middle-out position between the business views driving the motivation and the end-of-the-chain (poor slob, getting all the grief; trying to manage expectations that are possibly not realizable?) people?

Well, if one is going to argue for systems engineering, it would have to be independent of, and not accountable to, those driving the requirements, would it not? That is, technical projects get in trouble due to too few technical resources of an integrative nature being at hand as they are needed. Lean is partly a culprit (it works ex post facto in making improvements).


01/15/2012 -- A new wrinkle: perhaps, the middle way toward the unfolding of potential for all.

11/30/2011 -- Of late, there has been an OWS movement. It seems to not be hierarchical; that irritates the top-downers who like to think that their controlling viewpoint is truth. Have we ever seen a true middle out that respects the bottom up? I don't know. Even in science, you have those who think that theory trumps. Engineers are smart enough to know better. Ah, people and their foibles.

09/14/2010 -- Must and may. Two important concepts.

09/02/2009 -- Lets face it, folks, undecidability needs to be discussed and adopted in any complex situational setting, especially if computers are involved. Only hubris pushes us to make loud exclamations about what we're going to do in the future.

08/31/2009 -- We're going to look at this, again, from the finance view as we expand theoretics and technicals via an econoblog.

07/05/2009 -- We have to see how the computer (and computerism) influences this.

06/15/2009 -- Globalization, and capitalism, now a dirty word, according to one in private equity.

Modified: 01/15/2012

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