Adaptive = Designed For Change

Back from Japan, recovering over the long weekend, starting to feel human again…..

(1) Talking about ACM in Shin-Yokohama

John Mettraux (Processi) pulled off an amazing feat getting Japanese BPM enthusiasts to show up at an Italian bistro, braving certain language challenges, for a bit of discussion about Adaptive Case Management.  A few people from Oracle, Fujitsu, The Japan BPM Association, and a number of independent BPM consultants with an eye toward tracking the future. I hope the video comes out well.  Domo arigato, John!

Unfortunately I didn’t capture the list of questions asked, and so can’t include here a complete summary of the interesting discussion.  Next time I need to remember to ask someone to take notes.  But I do remember a couple:

(2) How do both experts and novices use ACM?

It is reasonable to expect that they will use it differently.  The way that case management is performed depends upon the skills of the case manager.  Do we need to customize the templates to the skill level of the case manager?  You might, and at least it is reasonable to expect different people with different skills to have their own individual favorite templates to use.  ACM is all about flexibility for this sort of things.

I suspect that the question was asking how it is that you extract the knowledge from the expert and get it into the template for use by the novice.  I always point out that while ACM starts by representing the case data, but the data at the center of a case does not include the knowledge/expertise of the case manager.  A lawyer will manage a case, and the case will carry the detail of that particular case, but you should never expect that the case template contains all the knowledge and expertise of the lawyer.  Quite the opposite.  In short: there is no desire to de-skill the case managers.

With case management, the experts remain experts.  Novices learn by watching experts.  Case management does give a novice an advantage, because it keeps a clear record of what the expert has done in the past, so it is possible that exact details of many cases could be consulted easily.  Thus process mining techniques are useful for training novices.  We call this “Designing by Inspection” when the template is constructed from history events.

(3) Why use the term “Adaptive”?

I sometimes get asked, why call it “Adaptive Case Management” instead of just plain “Case Management”? – The main reason for this is that case management is a wide field without a specific definition.  Many people associate it exclusively with existing medical, legal, investigative, and social work field.  The same basic approach that is used for these fields can be used across all vertical when knowledge work needs to be supported.  And we recognize that ~40% of the workforce performs primarily knowledge work.  To avoid confusion, we need a specific term that can be defined clearly, and chose to put an adjective in front.

Why use “adaptive”? – A number of adjectives could be used, but “adaptive” has a very special meaning.  I find it clearest to say that adaptive means “designed for change”.

  • Not just able to be changed — but actually supposed to be changed before and during use.
  • Not just easy to change — but possibly requiring to be changed to be useful
  • Not just fluid — but retaining changes for re-use over time, possily making changes to changes
  • Not simply re-programmable — but modified through direct use, not programming
  • Not automatically self running — but instead a collection of capabilities to be applied by the manager

Max Pucher touched on this recently in “Adaptive Process: Theory and Reality” and that is the best source because he really is the “Guru of Adaptive”.  To me, adaptive means not just changeable, but malleable like clay which can be easily molded into a specific shape for this one use.  The clay does not come pre-formed for direct use, but instead may come in a variety of shapes which might be easily adapted to many purposes.

In the Mastering the Unpredictable (chapter 7) I give another example of the meaning of adaptive through the analogy of a “Smorgasbord” where instead of being presented with a complete meal, you are given an assortment of fully cooked ingredients which can be used to “compose” a meal.  There are many useful parallels:  A smorgasbord allows each person to customize the meal to their desired quantity, tastes, allergies, and mood of the day.  Similarly, a smorgasbord does not deliver as finely crafted meals as a professional cook would, and it clearly puts a bigger demand upon the customer to have to decide what to take.  Hopefully you can see that a smorgasbord is not simply a “meal that can be changed” but it is in fact food delivered in a form that allows the user to compose a meal.  Same for ACM: it is not just a pre-built process which can be modified, but instead is a set of components that can be assembled in order to support the work of the case.

(4) Mega-post on Knowledge Management, Social Process, and ACM

John Tropea posted this very large survey post today called “Have we been doing Enterprise 2.0 in reverse : Socialising processes and Adaptive Case Management“, and it covers a lot of interesting angles, include relating knowledge management to BPR, SPR, case management and social process.  Check it out.

(5) Better figures for Kindle readers

We converted the book Mastering the Unpredictable to Kindle format, but in the process the figures are reduced to a resolution that makes many of them unreadable.  To address this, we have made the figure graphics available on SlideShare: “Figures for Mastering the Unpredictable“.  In some cases these higher resolution graphics will be useful to those reading the printed book as well.  Enjoy!

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4 Responses to Adaptive = Designed For Change

  1. Hiki says:

    Thank you very much for your presentation.
    We will hold the study session of “Mastering the Unpredictable” in my company.

    Yoshinori Ichikawa
    Oracle Japan

  2. John Tropea says:

    Your smorgasboard metaphor is brilliant; from a KM perspective it speaks of emergent practices rather than best practice recipes.

    I said something similar a couple of months ago
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2010/04/13/the-fallacy-of-know-how-recipes-and-hoarding

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “I need to be able to flex my skill in assembling my know-how in applied and unexpected situations. Eg we have people over for dinner in an hour and I need to cook dinner with what I have…improvise.

    You need to know the fundamentals, this way you can assemble fragments in new ways.

    In this respect we can see personal knowledge fragments as ingredients, and when I’m faced with a situation I bring those ingredients together and assemble them into an outcome. The knowledge is in recalling ingredients
    for the context and assembling them (knowing how they work together and as a whole). In another context some of those ingredients will assemble with others, and also the assembly may be approached differently. To me, this is know-how!

    You may also find my post about a Janitor as a knowledge worker relevant
    http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2010/04/27/i-am-knowledge-worker-says-the-janitor

  3. Pingback: Library clips :: Real KM : It’s about the match play, not the scoreboard :: July :: 2010

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