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David Loshin

Welcome to my BeyeNETWORK Blog. This is going to be the place for us to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions on all aspects of the information quality and data integration world. I intend this to be a forum for discussing changes in the industry, as well as how external forces influence the way we treat our information asset. The value of the blog will be greatly enhanced by your participation! I intend to introduce controversial topics here, and I fully expect that reader input will "spice it up." Here we will share ideas, vendor and client updates, problems, questions and, most importantly, your reactions. So keep coming back each week to see what is new on our Blog!

About the author >

David is the President of Knowledge Integrity, Inc., a consulting and development company focusing on customized information management solutions including information quality solutions consulting, information quality training and business rules solutions. Loshin is the author of The Practitioner's Guide to Data Quality Improvement, Master Data Management, Enterprise Knowledge Management: The Data Quality Approachand Business Intelligence: The Savvy Manager's Guide. He is a frequent speaker on maximizing the value of information. David can be reached at loshin@knowledge-integrity.com or at (301) 754-6350.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in David's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

At times, our consulting practice is faced with a conundrum: the evolution of certain technologies and practices for enhanced information exploitation suggest changing business operations in a way that might reduce, or even eliminate, some participants' roles. In other words, implementing technical changes to benefit the organization simultaneously have a determinental impact on individuals within the organization.

In terms of self-preservation, it is not in the best interests of these individuals to support new technical initiatives that might result in their own termination. Yet in order to do their job the right way, they are obliged to do what is right for the organization, right? This situation resembles the game theory concept of a zero-sum game, in which moves that benefit one player equally have a negative impact on another player.

The challenge, then, is to determine how to socialize the evolution of the program in a way that demonstrates mitigation for any individual impacts or displacements. For example, when suggesting an action whose side effects include the elimination of a specific person's role, seek ways to evolve that person's responsibilities to support the change process and long term maintenance of the technical evolution. Doing so will finesse the "zero-sum" situation and will provide new challenges for both staff training and organizational improvement.

Posted September 26, 2006 11:21 AM
Permalink | 2 Comments |


As we used to say in my college days -- It is the moral duty of every programmer to automate himself out of a job, and when he succeeds he will be the best qualified for a better job.

I construe the zero-sum model a little more narrowly than your example, to describe the situation where participants compete to extract value from each other. As a consequence there is no incentive to cooperate.

In a positive-sum game participants compete to create maximum value. Cooperation becomes a viable strategy, but not a logical necessity. A positive-sum game is not necessarily a win-win proposition, and losers can be left behind.

Having had the experience of engineering entire departments out of existence on more than one occasion, I can say the social engineering is nontrivial and demands creative thinking. Having been the 'victim' of mass redundancy once myself, I can say anecdotally that being positively proactive about it, rather than resisting, resulted in the biggest advancement of my career.

I completely agree with you - my company's approach to consulting is to transfer our techniques internally and effectively engineer ourselves out of work. So far, though, there has always been another opportunity to look for performance improvement, which means that we get the chance to "reinvent" our role every half year or so.

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