Under The Wrong Rock
Managing Our Community of Information & Knowledge
By Roy D. Follendore III
June 5, 2003
Because of telecommunications, modern organizations are full of Information users. Everyone who uses a computer is in some way an Information Manager and their superiors place demands on the nature of that information. Regardless of the position title, all large organizations find a way to put employees in control what is and is not to be considered accurate and reliable aggregate information. Within such organizations, the pressure that is placed on these individuals is not only to achieve compliance as the expected informational product, it is intended to force congruence with respect to a particular strategic view. When an Information Manager refuses to agree, it is only necessary for the "Organizational General" to demand a rewrite until agreement and concurrence takes place. If the Information Manager brings in something unacceptable then they looked "under the wrong rock." The message to from this form of informational coercion is soon understood by the Information Manager and there is little risk to the reputation of the General. The General gets what he/she wants and can place the blame on the poor information and Information Managers. This is a convenient gap for organizational politicians and there are few technical tools that prevent the kinds of "unintentional catastrophic failures" that occur.
Every General knows that the information and the way that information is presented affects the outcome of the decisions that are to be made within an organization. Therefore, from the General's perspective, in order to "engineer" the potential desirable operational outcome, one must manipulate information within an organization in a desirable way. This means that Generals see it necessary to influence the "bias" of organizational information managers. But changing that bias affects the organizational determination of reliability with respect to the information itself. The implications are that if the shades of gray are systematically shifted, black can become white.
The organizational information can be "tuned" in such a way as to be efficient for an operational plan to the point where it is incapable of legitimate real world analysis and reaction. Whether we know it or not, we have all seen the implications of this in the spectacular failures of all of the major Federal organizations including; NASA, the intelligence community, the justice community, and the U.S. military as well as in the sometimes intentional self destruction of commercial organizations such as ENRON, WorldCom, EDS, and AOL-TimeWarner. How these tendencies occur and why they occur is becoming critical to the technical, political, economic and military security of our nation.
For instance, it is a fact that there are positions within organizations that are designed to evaluate new technologies and their designs to see that they operated within the policy guidelines. These are technical information management positions that represented the determination of important quality control requirements. There are two ways to look at that kind of work. One can either see it as a bureaucratic accounting and rubber stamp activity, or they can do proper research, analysis and certification. In other words, such a job could be seen as a political policy position or as a scientific engineering analyst position.
What is generally supposed to happen in such a role is an analytical balance between assurance and operational functionality. What actually happens can be an assault on the integrity of the system and its policies by the management. The battleground of the outcome is the credibility and identity of the information itself and the way that it is to be approached. The overriding issue that ultimately hangs in the balance is the acceptable level of risk for not having potentially highly efficient organizational capabilities, against the risk, potentially to any number of innocent men, women and children for having such capabilities.
The deliberate streamlining and eliminating capabilities that manage the reality of organizational information is a particularly dangerous thing for information managers to do. For any organization, the ability to react properly unknown threats is at least as important as the ability to act efficiently to known ones. The maintenance of this conceptual balance between reaction and action is the essential underlying difference between the genome of the dinosaur and man. The informational genome of the dinosaur was far more efficient but not as as adaptive and this lead to its ultimate extinction.
ENRON corporation became an extinct corporate dinosaur, because it became too efficient a predator of energy contracts by way of the biased reality of internal information that destroyed it's reality through it's managing Generals in the name of efficiency. It attempted to grow too large too fast, simply through the manipulation of information. This was not simply a case of simple greed that was involved, because as a large organization there were thousands of good employees involved. ENRON was essentially a strategic manipulation of internal knowledge through information, for a strategic plan that first caused it to come to believe it's own manufactured illusions and then catastrophically fail because of that belief.
The Challenger and the Columbia were national disasters that were caused by the same problem. When the executive organizational objective of economic efficiency is pitted against engineering, information again becomes the battleground. The failure of NASA's administration to identify the problem of management bias as the key factor in the Challenger disaster became the cause of the destruction of the Columbia. With Columbia, once again the economics of singular mission critical decisions were pitted against the risk to the overall program. In both cases, NASA simply failed to try to resolve the technical problems when they were discovered. In both cases, it was the lower level engineers who understood the problems involved, but were not able to convince the information managers that something needed to immediately be done. The catastrophic failures of NASA shuttles underlines the idea that as our society increases in complexity, we must have both theories and viable technical solutions that allow us to use our telecommunications processes in ways that allows a community to react properly to concerns that are not in the plan.
We saw this same problem of information criticality arise to a head on the 11th of September, 1992. The fact is that as a whole, there was more than enough evidence that terrorists were planning and in place to attack the World Trade Center with high jacked aircraft. Not only had the trade center had been bombed before and aircraft hijacked, they had a history of suicide bombings against our Embassies and ships. FBI and CIA analysts understood the implications and simply chose to do nothing because information was manipulated and discounted by the larger strategic plan of the organizational Generals. The strange conclusions that were reached was that there needed to be even more strategic control by the Generals and many fewer checks and balances for information.
The result of this has been the invasion of Iraq, based on biased and manipulated intelligence information. We invaded Iraq because of the supposed existence of weapons of mass destruction that the UN could not find and now neither can we now that we are occupying their country. In the Iraqi case, through the internal manipulation of information managers America's political ends were justified to our military means.
While the invasion could be declared an overwhelming success, the diplomatic position and impact on the prestige of the United States could not be. Through the organized manipulation of information the United States is rationally withdrawing from the world, even as it encroaches on the economic and physical territories of of others. Because of the manipulative findings of the Generals searching for access to more power, much of the world hates the US and our intentional neglect of international realities and justifiable aspects of their hostility will cost us dearly for decades. Unless we repair the damage that the political mismanagement of information control has caused by implementing analytical independence, the interdependence of information will result in massive catastrophic failures in our decision making.
The fact is that there is always a necessary and continuous organizational overhead to maintaining a grounded ideal of informational reality. Checks and balances for organizational information managers comes down to the issues of balance between the economics of organized efficiency and effectiveness vs. the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of maintaining organized informational reason and reliability.
Since the implementation of networked personal computers, most office workers are oriented to the goal of becoming information managers. Where the structure of organizations were once designed to be physical embodiments of desired information flows, they now act as information exchange nodes designed to process and act on information as knowledge. But while the inherent purpose of organizational structure has evolved though the use of technology, the essential mindset requirements to legitimize and exercise organizational power within the organizational bureaucracy has not. The organization remains what it always has been., a tool that serves a purpose for those who are chosen to administer it.
There are three ways most bureaucratic managers think about information. Type I: Information can be thought of as always independent and true. Type II: Information can be thought of as always dependent and false. Type III: Information can also be thought of as interdependent and possible.
It is easy to think of a person who is "evil" and uses one of these stereotyped personas to base their dastardly strategies. But when you begin to think about it, good intentions of people can exist behind any of these philosophical perspectives. These perspectives become more than just strategies for good or evil. They represent an organizational harmonic chain of potential interactions. They can be thought of as a representation of the fundamental building blocks of conditional information flow and content. The order though which information flows, determines it's potential usefulness with respect to specific organizational priorities and agendas and ultimately determines if and when an organization is to be productive and successful with respect to its charter.
For the Chief Executive of a bureaucratic organization, the essential problem with these types of information managers pretty much depends on their perspective. Many top executives see their work in terms of warfare. They see themselves as "Generals" and they see their management staff as "weapons." The question for the "General" is how to forge and use these "weapons."
It is a well recognized fact that such "weapons" are far less effective if they are used independently. This means that it is thought that the "General" must be able to cause a degree of conformity within the ranks. What this means is that for the Type I Information Manager, the "General" must simply create bureaucratic organizational policies and regulations in such a way that conformity becomes the correct course of action. It also means that for the Type II Information Manager, the "General" must primarily use the charisma arising from his legitimate authority to impress conformational demands. Moreover, it means that for the Type III Information Manager, the "General" must primarily use information to elicit a conformational response.
It must be kept in mind that the General is always seen to be an Information Manager with a strategic goal. Most often, the General is chosen because he or she is seen as others to be the embodiment of an immediate solution. In actuality, the General may or may not be the one true believer in the manifest destiny of any goal, but is always careful to be presented as such. The General is expected to be able to cut to the chaff and economically take the optimum short cut from point "A" to "Z" with a minimum of risk. For this reason, within a time dependent crisis it is far easier for the Type II information manager to be expected to achieve instant results. The Type I too often becomes embroiled in difficulties and complexities of red tape. Rules just can not cover all possible contingencies. The Type II information manager must depend on a degree of understanding from what can often arise from complex arrangements of stochastic criteria.
The problem with the Type II Information Manager as General becomes the definition and expectation of the objective. They don't have one because the one that they propose is always part of their secondary agenda. Remember, that the Type II Information Manager is primarily driven by his or her relationship to power and not by an objective concept of some end result. As a consequence, the Type II's are constantly trying to please unappeasable superiors. They are trying rise and maintain their own personal power through their vein efforts to reach a superior consensus. When a number of Type II Information Managers work together, as they often do, they tend to reach that consensus through the current fad. It does not necessarily matter that the fad is the wrong or worst choice available. The most practical advantage that they have is their ability to cover their tracks. Consensus is a very powerful thing that can be easily justified. One must remember that the Type II is not particularly concerned with ocean of possible truths, just the benefits of the individual ones that are closest and consequently most beneficial to them. When it becomes necessary for the "tiger" of fault to be placed, it is not necessary for all of the Type II's to hide. They just need to deliver their leading kind to the sacrifice and be willing to ascend to the next level of opportunity.
Moreover, it must be clearly understood that within this model of explanation, Type I, II, and III information managers are simple classifications. These are classes of psychological orientations and philosophies. In reality, it is possible and even probable that human beings actually possess all three types of philosophies combined. Individuals may present themselves as a Type I, relate to the organization as a Type III, but actually try to orient and practice the Type II orientation. Moreover, it is not their presentation, nor their attempt at relating, but the actual historical manner in which their actions are taken as a whole that classifies their functional orientation.
The various Information Manager classes and their associations are the means to reaching the desired information product. As a consequence, for the Organizational General each of these classes of information managers have advantages and disadvantages with respect to achieving the desired product. The quality of information products that these various types of managers produce becomes critical if it is to be responsible for, and capable of providing complex solutions. In fact, predictability of the information product is ultimately the primary purpose of creating such classifications.
The information manager who is dependent on policies and regulations is highly limited by those policies and regulations and with time becomes the consummate bureaucrat. The information manager who is dependent on the whims of others can not be very concerned about the independent merits of information and ultimately becomes the consummate politician. The information manager who is aligned too closely with the idea of completely understanding the complexities of unbiased information is incapable of strong persuasive decisions and becomes the consummate analyst.
The problem comes when the General decides to use these information managers to produce a desired result. As information is passed through these philosophies, it is managed by being systematically cultivated or rejected. As a result, the available information within the organization becomes tuned to the resonance of the organization as defined by the order and arrangement of the various types of information managers. The Type I information manager tends to hold the informational course. The Type II information manager tends to assign and drive the objectives of the informational course. The Type III information manager researches, authenticates and certifies the informational course. Combined, these information managers process the fundamental nature and possibilities for information through assumptions of priority and agenda.
An information based organization is essentially a physical cavity where the oversight of the harmonics of information is constantly being managed. How this is to be accomplished is at the very heart of the rational process. Within large bureaucratic Governmental organizations like NASA, CIA and the FBI, it becomes easy for the resonance of such organizations to convert potentially rich and useful arrangements of information into valueless and useless monotones of information. Highly processed intelligence can therefore become worthless and yet passed on to others as information of the highest importance.
The important thing to understand is that failures do not necessarily occur because of intentional design, but rather can be an unintentional side effect of the functioning of the organization. For the General, it is therefore not merely an issue of "tightening up the ship" or "turning the ship around." Problems are as likely to occur when an organization is too tightly structured as when it is too unstructured.
Problems can also exist when the organization is on the correct path. The process of finding the optimum available arrangements of information that produce the right knowledge requires a degree of internal logical and rational flexibility in order to allow the various types of information managers to work best together. Absolute conformity, results in informational distortions that promote and amplify invalid perceptions. This means that a certain degree of philosophical dissidence with respect to information is critical to well being of the information based organization.
The manner in which our "General" approaches the design of information security processes within such an organization that is made up of information managers is important. Information security controls both the performance and the capabilities of information based organizations. Since performance is also the primary criteria for promotion considerations, security also controls who, and therefore what kind of philosophical orientation is to exist within any position. As a consequence, it stands to reason that the arrangements of information management orientation that is optimum for the General's plan is rarely the optimal path for the organization. (This is particularly true when the General is attempting to rightly or wrongly "turn things around.") There are weaves of orientations that affect organizational optimality.
Alternative official paths for acquiring, verifying, validating, delivering and acknowledging valid information content provides consensus among information managers. This may be particularly true for Type I and Type III information managers. This is where the purpose of cryptography can be quite different from the classical definition of preventing the "enemy" from having access to sensitive information. In such cases, cryptography is used to maintain the "continuity" of information as an "organizational knowledge base" for the organizational information oriented "community." In this way, the "information oriented community" becomes the "knowledge oriented society."
The information oriented community replaces the structure of physical boundaries for physical transfer of information with conditional logical boundaries. For this, cryptographic solutions are used to provide tightly integrated control of information content between the various nodes and layers that through conventional vertical hierarchical organizational strategies would otherwise be considered chaotic. This is because while a modern organization may exist with respect to formal delegated responsibilities, the relationships of information that is used to control those responsibilities are not necessarily functionally parallel to the traditional organizational lines of communication.
A knowledge oriented society is the natural extension of this paradigm. It is essentially the aggregate, i.e. the gestalt or confluence of the information communities. Where the information communities are made up of "Organizational Generals" who direct the orientation and dynamics of their respective information organizations, the knowledge oriented society has no centralized leadership. It is the organizations, through their necessarily coordinated interoperable mandates for acquiring information that dynamically affects the "natural objectives" of the knowledge oriented society. This idea of society is of course represents a constantly emerging dynamic process, rather than a static one. Since with respect to knowledge, there constantly exists possibilities for information convergence, there is also knowledge convergence and therefore constant societal convergence. The implications of this should not be underestimated.
The larger picture is more difficult to focus upon, though it exists for all to consider. Many of the difficulties that we have witnessed in modern society today arise from the lack of understanding from our Organizational Generals. Their operational side effects arising from their discrete attempts to generate organizational informational control are both considered to be inconsequential to their objectives as well as disproportional to their output. As a consequence, the dynamic interconnected nature of organizations means that random trends tend to be amplified with far greater effective influence. As Organizational Generals attempt to turn around their respective organizations in a coordinated fashion, they generate what essentially becomes "societal quakes." We see the cataclysmic results of this in the sudden appearance of technical vulnerabilities, the suppression of technical opportunities and within the wide ranging economic successes and failures of the stock markets.
The Type I, II and III information management orientation represents the fundamental building blocks for leadership, command and control of the modern information organization. With respect to that command and control, the Organizational General determines the good and bad ways to levy their interactions for the benefit of his/her plan. The greatest issue today is the fact that a good means levying informational organizational control can have bad consequences for the knowledge society. The only valid solution is to engage rather than to ignore the existence of the knowledge society. This would mean that the engineering of information management orientations with respect to knowledge management must be better understood and implemented. We are now talking about a new kind of General that will be needed to lead a new class of organization. We are talking about the planning and maintaining the strategic goal of correcting and updating strategic knowledge by formally fusing and infusing the appropriate relationships of the three types of information managers as formal operational policies and functions.
The infusion of Telecommunication systems with databases through cryptographic solutions, rather than the control and manipulation of databases alone will be the the key to creating this new organization. This is not security in the classic sense in that the idea is not to restrict knowledge, but to properly disseminate unbiased knowledge. This is the use of cryptography for the purpose of command and control of knowledge rather than traditional security. Cryptography is certainly justifiable for this purpose, as it is rational, valid, practical and useful knowledge that is the true legitimate power of the modern organization. It is only when the historical origin, reputability, validity of original data, information and analysis is documented and maintained that organizational knowledge and assumptions can be certifiable as valid and unbiased. The step to "Information Generals" fails to connect the idea of maintaining the necessary control content with its aggregate purpose. Until "Information Managers" are educated to become "Knowledge Generals," the organizational control will remain parochial so that "Knowledge Organizations" can not exist. Knowledge Generals must have new technical resources that currently do not exist.
The add hock manipulation of information managers by centralized politically charged Organizational Generals is no longer enough to prevent catastrophic failures within organizations. This is because the objectives of Knowledge Organizations must concentrate and deal with consistent long term issues that would otherwise continue to fail in unexpected catastrophic ways because information becomes politically influenced. Valid organizational knowledge must not be tainted and valid processes made unusable. The performance of organizations must also be protected. With respect to security, this is a different thing than preventing access of information from unauthorized outsiders. Without such enlightenment, technological tools that offer the opportunity of consistently less biased knowledge management will never be placed high enough on the operational agenda for the next stage of organizational evolution.
What's War Got To Do With It?
Assuming that one wants to embed future Type I, II & III Knowledge Generals into a organization so that checks and balances exist, we must ask: "How can this be done?" When properly interpreted, one of Napoleon's "Military Maxims of War" has interesting implications for the Organizational General and his relationship to his Knowledge Generals. Rather than simply standard operational procedures, we are talking about expected legitimate functional morays with respect to the interactions between the Organizational General and his Knowledge Generals.
In particular, Maxim LXXII, might be interpreted to state that an "Knowledge" General should never be given the right to shelter his mistakes by using the cover of his superior, when his superior distant from the scene of operation, and either ill informed or ignorant of the actual state of things. Every Knowledge General is culpable for their information when they undertake the execution of any organizational plan which may be considered faulty. It is the Knowledge General's duty to represent his/her reasons for providing and interpreting data, information, and knowledge, insist upon appropriate changes to plans that use that data, information and knowledge, and when necessary to give in his/her resignation rather than allow his/her information to be made the instrument of the organizations ruin. Every Knowledge General who follows directions of an Organizational General's orders to manipulate information, with the certainty of failure, is equally blamable. In such a case, the Knowledge General should to refuse obedience and document the reasons why. Blind obedience with regard to the manipulation of information is due only to a command given when that Organizational General is present on the spot at the moment of the action, is willing to endorse the change and reliable information to the contrary is otherwise unavailable. Being in possession of a perception of the state of things, the superior has it then within his power to afford the necessary explanations to the Knowledge General who then must execute his orders. But there also may be circumstances when when a Knowledge General may receive an order from his superior directing him to change information, with the idea that the information should cause the organization to fail. If the Knowledge General is able to comprehend both the moral meaning and beneficial utility of such an order for the good of the organization, he/she should execute it; otherwise, he/she should refuse to obey it and document the reasons why.
Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved