Nov 29, 2008
About 20 years ago activists saw the potential for communities facing crises to utilise the then expensive computer technologies. Schweik Action formed in Wollongong, in 1986, to promote nonviolent responses to aggression and repression. Members, such as Brian Martin, saw a role for ICT, but recognised its then limitations. Although social tools, such as Web 2.0, hadn't emerged.
Later, crisis events such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans generated highly emotive community civil society collapsing stories. However in July 2008 Wikinomics reported that Web 2.0 Social Networking tools were used by citizens, to ensure that rebuilding of their city was done in ways that made sense. Gurus such as Alan Gutierrez ran crash courses in social networking. They used tools such as Flickr, WordPress, Yahoo Groups, and Google Maps to prioritise rebuilding, ie occurred in the right areas soonest. Governments do not always have the right knowledge at hand in such crises to get the prioritisation right. In fact this was recognised in the 1980's, when the concepts of community empowerment & development were being explored. Gartner also observed similar community use of social networking with Hurricane Gustav .. "For example, as Gustav approached, Ning created a hosted wiki. Within 24 hours, volunteers copied useful emergency management information, such as links and feeds from Katrina Web sites, and updated them. These citizens also provided neighborhood and regional updates."
Wikinomics February 2009 Blog postings suggesting how communities can use Web 2.0 to engage in participatory regulation echoes the earlier views of Brian Martin and Les Robinson.
Professor Stephen Hill, former Jakarta-based UNESCO Director, made similar observations of respecting locals' needs in rebuilding Bandar Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 Tsunami. Huge international aid was unleashed. Despite locals being traumatized, their input was necessary , to ensure the aid efforts were not focused on solutions irrelevant to the local context. Looking to the future, electronic communications - initially radio, but also ICT are considered vital for future tsunami type catastrophes.
And as reported in Geoff Brown's yes!andspace blog, even prior to the tragic February 2009 Victorian Bushfires, an enthusiastic volunteer has directed the Victorian Country Fire Authority's Incident Summary RSS's feeds to a Twitterfeed - saving Bandwidth for the CFA's website. Others are retweeting the message. There have been suggestions of using phone systems to spread emergency warning messages. Twitterfeed via mobile phones might be one way to spread disaster alert messages as more people become users.
According to Les Robinson, of Social Change Media, it is not just technology that counts in social capital. Les sees the important role of social entrepreneurs in change process- refer his 7 Doors Model & social marketing. He comments on the Diffusion of Innovations Theory, which treats change as a wave passing through society. An example would be changed community perceptions of Climate Change & Global Warming, whichformer Australian Prime Minister, John Howard failed to recognise.
Of course the question in everyone's minds was - how could it have occurred? Why didn't all the governments do something? And it occurred to me that many of the concepts covered in the conference certainly helped me in my personal sensemaking of it all. In particular, David Snowden's Cynefin and storytelling perspectives, plus the social network analysis and business network analysis approaches covered by Laurence Lock Lee and Graham Durant-Law. In particular the disintegration that they both identified could occur when a node in a network is removed - and how sometimes a seemingly minor node (Iceland's economy or Lehman Brothers ?) can indeed be far more crucial than previously recognised.
On personal basis I found David Snowden's Cynefin approach to complexity & chaos-crisis not a bad start for me in achieving some sensemaking of these situations reeling out of control. David Snowden also made the observation that in influencing strategic decisionmaking, that stories convince people, whereas data and statistics do not. He also spoke of the "dominant narrative" in the public's mind, citing UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's oscillating public standing as a good example. "Markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay insolvent" was just one of the "stories" of an internation global economic "storyteller" from an earlier era, John Maynard Keynes (New Scientist 18 October 2008).
Keynes' "stories" had long since been ditched from their dominant (or master) narrative status (more views on Keynes - anyone who has been in a political election campaign can vouch for the media's fixation with the "dominant narrative" (nb I was a candidate in four local council elections in the 1980's -1990's - successful in 3 - including an unwinnable election - and so can attest that it even operated at that level!) . So Keynes' "stories" were jettisoned for those of a new "storyteller", Dr Alan Greenspan, who as the international global economic "storyteller" & head of the USA's Federal Reserve, was considered to be infallible for over 20 years, until late 2008. He told members of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform "that he was 'partially wrong" in not having to regulate the market for credit-default swaps. ... Dr Greenspan conceded a more serous flaw in his own philosphy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy ....."I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organisation, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.' ... Dr Greenspan said he was in "a state of shocked disbelief" about the breakdown in the ability of the banks to regulate themselves." (refer Sydney Morning Herald Oct 25-26 2008 & The Australian - Wall Street Journal Oct 25 2008). Thus was Greenspan's view on the expected behaviour of markets and banks, and it was the dominant narrative for decades.
Key aspects of the unravelling of Greenspan's dominant narrative : there was not clear disclosure of the make-up of bank assets and of the assumptions backing their valuations, and thus many banks became radically undercapitalised with highly optimistic risk weightings, according to James Ferguson, Pali International (New Scientist 18 October 2008).
Ten years ago there had been a huge antiglobalisation movement aimed at stopping the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, aka the MAI. The fear had been that in setting up this treaty that individual nations would have to water down their own sovereign legislation covering industrial relations, social policy, environment protection and much more. Opposition forces were drawn "a broad church" from the political left across to the religious Christian right wing groups, who whipped up fear that it would herald the arrival of the New World Order. Also opposed was Pauline Hansen and One Nation suppporters. A very broad church indeed!
Ultimately the formal treaty did not proceed. However at the time some socially progressive economists did admit that there were merits to the MAI - provided an appropriate set of rules and governance principles were incorporated into the treaty. However virtually any set of rules and governance were considered an anathema and too restrictive at the time, especially by the World Trade Organization, WTO. That was of course prior to the Enron situation in the USA and the subsequent introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which was initially supported and later opposed by Dr Greenspan . It introduced stringent new rules with the stated objective: "to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures made pursuant to the securities laws". In Australia, the MAI preceded the HIH & One-Tel corporate collapses. Nevertheless various world trade negotiating rounds continued on, eg Doha, and in fact there was considerable cross border investment activity. Individuals, businesses and various tiers of government alike traded, invested and borrowed globally. - thus leading to an ever increasing connectedness.
Perhaps there may be a need for a new Bretton Woods system to create a new global economic architecture for the 21st Century. This possibility was raised by Professor Geoffrey Garrett, CEO of the US Studies Centre, University Sydney, in his Sunday Telegraph newspaper column "New World Order" 26/10/2008. Garrett claimed in his column that "Today's global economy is de-centred, full of different views amont the many players."
However there is some dissent from this view. Debora Mackenzie, in New Scientist Oct 25 2008, in asking the question "How do we re-engineer it so that breakdowns don't happen again? "
What ? Go to a science magazine to explain economic meltdowns and to find solutions to our global crisis ? .. I queried.
However Mackenzie reported that "one place to start is the science of complexity itself" .... shades of David Snowden and Cynefin, it seemed to me, and also of Nassim Taleb's "Black Swans". Mackenzie goes onto explain that "existing economic policies are based on the theory that the economic world is made up of a series of simple, largely separate transaction markets" (sounds a bit like Professor Geoffrey Garrett?). Mackenzie goes further however and that according to complexity researchers ... "This misses the fact that all of these transactions affect each other. ... Instead they see the global financial system of complex interrelationships, like an an electrical grid .... apparently unimportant changes ... crept into the global financial system ... none on their own seemed big enough to trigger a response ..... So how exactly has the financial system come to be so vulnerable ? One key factor is that money can now flow more easily from country to country. This has stimulated trade and prosperity throughout the world., but it also means that an upset in one place can have severe and unpredictable consequences elsewhere." In fact Nassim Taleb's essay "THE FOURTH QUADRANT: A MAP OF THE LIMITS OF STATISTICS" is an interesting critique with his view "let's face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system."
This reminded me of the old "Chaos" theory of the 1960's & promoted greatly in the 1980's.
Mackenzie also reported that Paul Krugman of Princeton University & NY Times columnist, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics had only recently "published an analysis which concluded that the rapid increase in cross-border investments since 1995 is what allowed a local shock - the collapse in inflated US real estate values - to propagate globally, especially through highly indebted investment firms that can respond to a loss of money in one place by pulling back credit anywhere in the world.... Krugman noted that 'these channels are not yet part of the standard analysis'. This is exactly the kind of linkage that the complexity theorists say economists have been missing." Mackenzie also refers to Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Environment Institute, who claimed that "one of the key ways in which diversity was lost arose from the uniformity of criteria that have been used to judge economic success ... when use of (these measures sic) was proposed, critics argued that this would encourage herd behaviour, with banks rushing en masse to sell off assets what were depressing their 'VaR' numbers, but their concerns were ignored. "
I wondered then if perhaps Geoffrey Garrett's view that "Today's global economy is de-centred, full of different views amont the many players" is not quite so.
And then I thought of the work done on social network analysis and business network analysis covered by Laurence Lock Lee and Graham Durant-Law at ACTKM 2008. Both had focused on interconnectedness and what could happen if key nodes were broken in the network. They both emphasised that removing a seemingly minor node, connecting two other large sub networks, can indeed be far more crucial than previously recognised. Perhaps Iceland's economy or Lehmen Brothers could be considered as such individual nodes. Lock Lee, together with Cai Kjaier and Barbara Nedderfield had developed strategies as to how organisations might become more resilient to the effects of losing a single node. Such a proactive approach if extrapolated could provide a starting point for future goverance of international financial systems.
Graham Durant-Law also indicated that the approach was challenged in providing an accurate analysis when applied to larger systems. Nevertheless to me, "sensemaking" of the crisis became 'personally possible" by putting it through the "SNA-BNA lens in a Cynefin approach".
Perhaps those feared a "MAI on steroids" back in the 1990's had some justification. But to ignore the immense benefits that globalised markets can bring is equally naive. There seems to be merit in Geoffrey Garrett's view that "may be a new Bretton Woods system to create a new global economic architecture for the 21st Century ". However it would need to be subject to rigorous analysis encompassing a "complexity theory's" take on network analysis methodologies, a super SNA-BNA approach. And perhaps the lessons from SNA about how to improve a system's resilience in the context of nodes being removed should be considered. Absolutely essential as well the "dominant economic narratives" and their storyteller(s) should not be regarded as infallible, but rather as a best approximation, needing to be subject to test and verification. This is probably going to inevitably involve increased governance to protect banks and markets against themselves ... just as the anti-MAI movement had clamoured for in the late 1990's. And Herman Daly, former senior economist to the World Bank & now Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Maryland, would argue that economists must also factor in the Environment, and that our world view must be one of an ecosystem (New Scientist 18 October 2008). But how long will it take our governments to build this new system?
Nov 28, 2008
As a former City Councillor who supported E-Tools for community consultation, I observed some great examples of community social capital, including Web 2.0. So Toronto's Web 2.0 Summit sounds intriguing. Billed as an interactive forum to explore how Web 2.0 technology can change the way governments interact with citizens, create policies and make decisions - see agenda.
The Summit features Councillors, Community Groups, Council officials, industry reps eg Anthony D Williams of Wikinomics - "Government 2.0 :Unleashing Wikinomics in the City of Toronto". Also Mark Sturman, whose Keynote Address was well received. Interesting how he used Mozilla Wiki to develop speaker notes and invite collaboration, also referencing Beltzner's Changing the World slides (large). I liked Sacha Chua's blog posting on her experience as a Gen Y panelist.
Nov 22, 2008
In the end I found Robin Hastings' (Missouri River Regional Library) slideshare presentation on "Cloud Computing" & the Cloud Computing Glossary the most non-geek friendly.
But like the rest of Web 2.0 applications, rather than head in the sand, avoiding Cloud Computing issues, those with governance roles, need to be asking questions of those with their heads in the clouds, looking to blue sky horizon possibilities. Those questions need to be fully answered, and not treated dismissively.Starting with ... Will Cloud Computing storage providers guarantee access to your information & records for as long as statutory regulations require, regardless of whether done in house or outsourced ... sometimes decades ? Then would Private Clouds & Virtual Private Clouds be better approaches ? Gartner predicts a future in this approach for large organizations. If IT departments were worried about managing security concerns with Web 2.0's Microsoft Sharepoint, they must be agonising over Governance and the full ramifications of Cloud Computing applications, eg Chieftech.blogspot. Perhaps, looking at it from Web 2.0 experiences, if companies & quality management professionals have their heads in the sand, then the horses will bolt.
Like the dripping tap, I tried to ignore it as just more IT geek jargon. Finally curious enough, I clicked on one of the email hyperlinks ... a new unintelligible taxonomy aka jargon emerged. It meant turning to Wikipedia, to get a plain English understanding of "Cloud Computing"....and a bit more at "How Stuff Works". Funny how many Orgs frown on using Wikipedia, just like my old uni professor frowned on the Plain English style metallurgy textbook, used at the TAFE across the road, despite its friendlier "Gunning Fog" readibility ranking. In the end I found Robin Hastings' (Missouri River Regional Library) slideshare presentation & the Cloud Computing Glossary the most non-geek friendly.
Realisation dawned .. I'd been a fledgling Cloud Computing user for a few years without realising ... as I paid my EBay bills using PayPal, used Amazon Books payment system, Google maps, Blogger, Google Reader for RSS feeds, LinkedIn, Yahoo Groups, Web based email, etc etc. Many say Cloud Computing is the next disruptive computing technology, just like the IBM Mainframe, Apple 2 computer and internet - Web 1.0/Web 2.0.
And why did I go to Google Reader for RSS feeds ? Probably because my Org didn't seem to provide Readers for RSS feeds, or it was too hard to find out how, or its use was discouraged. Many other employees looked at me blankly when I asked about RSS feed? So it was easier just to go outside the system. If I found anything worthwhile, then I'd just archive it, email it around internally or capture really useful bits onto a Sharepoint Wiki Page.
Another stage for the Microsoft vs Sun Microsystems paradigm debacle, with Microsoft's catch up commercialisation plans in offering a fee per use. "Cloud Computing" seems headed to SME's, so they don't have to outlay the capital for huge IT systems. Some commentators liken it to electricity and water utilities access and usage charging - where you don't need your own generator, windmill or well. Consumers expect reliable and safe supply at rates that are not exorbitant. But what about governance ? After all it was a utility, Enron, that led to the Sarbanes Oxley legislation in the USA.
It was dawning that, like the rest of Web 2.0 applications, rather than head in the sand, avoiding Cloud Computing issues, those with governance roles, need to be asking questions of those with their heads in the clouds, looking to blue sky horizon possibilities. Those questions need to be fully answered, and not treated dismissively.
Starting with ... Will Cloud Computing storage providers guarantee access to your information & records for as long as statutory regulations require, regardless of whether done in house or outsourced ... sometimes decades ? A good question and one being posed on How Stuff Works - Cloud Computing Security Concerns page. Very pertinent in an era of increased regulatory constraints, following the financial global meltdown. But then Key IT decision makers fret about the cost of software licensing and what they may perceive to be excessive and unnecessary data storage, ... forgetting the ramifications of not having data storage. Systems, which businesses need in order to operate, ie QMS, EMS, OHSMS, CRMS, FMS, have requirements to keep records for a very long time. Breach those and it could be a very costly threat to your business's longevity. Some commentators seem to be recognising this concern.
What about production history systems - no matter if managed in-house or via "Cloud Computing" applications ? If your product identity codes are re-used in a "wrap around" situation, it might be tempting to cut costs and not archive the records of each wrap around sequence separately. But how do you know if the data is for item "Awxyz" produced in 2006 or for item "Awxyz" from 2009. 3rd Party quality auditors certifying your Quality Management Systems, and Factory Production Control Systems, could take a dim view of your cost cutting - not good, especially if you plan to export into the EU in Europe.
There's the challenge - in line with James Robertson's view of two uses for a wiki - to ensure governance, "command and control" rules where they're needed - as well as to encourage collaborative environments with enabling support, hints and tips, to capture lessons learned, preventing key knowledge loss (refer egov.vic) . I decided to ask the "significant other", one of the aforementioned IT geeks, about his exposure to Cloud Computing & governance issues, a pause, then he explained how it was being adopted by some organizations, as a Virtual Private Cloud to enable collaboration with external users, and yet maintain security. Gartner predicts a future in Private Clouds/Virtual Private Clouds approaches for large organizations.
If IT departments were worried about managing security concerns with Web 2.0's Microsoft Sharepoint, they must be agonising over Governance and the full ramifications of Cloud Computing applications, eg Chieftech.blogspot. And again, despite all the proclamations, it will be a behavioural issue. Perhaps, looking at it from Web 2.0 experiences, if companies & quality management professionals have their heads in the sand, then the horses will bolt.
Nov 15, 2008
The JNF was closed, and instead we found ourselves in the middle of thousands of people at Martin Place in the www.walkagainstwarming.org/ Sydney protest rally on climate change - see Katrina's pic - one of a number around OZ. It happened again ... 2 years ago, in Athens, we had walked out into teachers protests on our hotel doorstep as we were checking out. Actually, the number of rooftop solar panels, glinting away in Athens's sunshine was astonishing! And the realities of the Australian government response on climate change ? Still "Waiting for Garnaut" ? Not necessarily ... despite the activists' claims ?
Sasha Hunter, a HSC student exhorted rally attendees to .. "Embrace the opportunity to solve the Global Warming Problems," & like Ghandi said "You must be the change you want to see in the world" - part of his philosophy of personal transformation.
There are different ways to create solutions & our global survival requires respecting those different paths, sharing & accepting key knowledge - just as Andrew Campbell had at ACTKM 2008, & also some UOW 1st Year Engineering students, not only completing the mandatory creative design project, but going further, entering the Engineers Without Borders 2008 Cambodian Challenge or US President-Elect Obama's commitment for 2020. Perhaps being inspired by Nelson Mandela, just as he created synergies in building bridges between opponents.. "Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that generation”.
Nov 12, 2008
Coincidentally, 2 weeks later, I listened at ACTKM 2008 as David Snowden spoke of Web 2.0 used in Middle Eastern conflict frontlines by the US military - to get accurate, current information to the strategists – chillingly really but nonetheless very dynamic KM. And how the newly elected US President Barack Obama’s campaign team exploited Web 2.0 communications – despite criticism now he’s taking a brief rest after the campaign. Honestly, even in a local council election campaign, & I’ve done 4, the pace is exhausting ... you need chill out time afterwards ..
It seems with history that change is inevitable. But then the same lessons need to be learned again.... Adaptability needed. Likewise, smarter tools really can’t be ignored, or banned by traditional IT management. Web 2.0, in all of its forms is here. People will find ways to use them officially, or otherwise, even outside the organization. To get the benefits – realistic governance is needed to direct, guide, help & enable users.....
Coincidentally, 2 weeks later, I listened at ACTKM 2008 as David Snowden spoke of Web 2.0 used in Middle Eastern conflict frontlines by the US military - to get accurate, current information to the strategists – chillingly real, but nonetheless very dynamic KM. And how the newly elected US President Barack Obama’s campaign team exploited Web 2.0 communications – despite criticism now he’s taking a brief rest after the campaign. Honestly, even in a local council election campaign, & I’ve done 4, the pace is exhausting ... you need chill out time afterwards….
I started with Les Carlyon’s “The Great War”, 800 pages, very long & many footnotes. The failure of the British communications, how this prevented them from modifying flawed strategies, that bore no relation to reality, inevitably leading to devastating results on their battle strategies, leapt off the pages. Along the way, Carlyon inserted small, personal stories of soldiers from both sides, including disastrous Fromelles, (more Australia soldiers perished than in Gallipoli). Citizens saw through the UK War Office’s official spin, as casualties exploded. Interesting to hear Turkish perspectives of Gallipoli (actually Gelibolu), aka the Cannakale War, fighting off UK- led ANZAC invaders. Confusing ?? So the 11th of November 1918, long remembered as the Armistice for a world shell shocked by an agonising 4 year war - also heralded a new world, where countries such as Russia, Germany & Turkey changed forever. And in other countries, like Australia and Vietnam, colonial ties loosened.
Military & political reputations would be made, as officers learnt new ways of campaigning – Haig, Blamey, Patten, Montgomery, Rommel, Hitler. Technology required a constantly adapting orchestration of tanks, wireless radio communications, artillery, planes etc & the Royal Navy, played a lesser role. Supplying the frontline troops was crucial.
Just short of 90 years later, 4th of November 2008 will be unforgettable. The day, when the USA elected its first non White President, as the world reeled with a changed global financial order. Victory at the end of a long campaign, where Victors exploited new technologies – Web 1.0 & Web 2.0 – email, YouTube, MySpace, etc. Adaptability, crucial, but tradition not ignored, as campaign workers gave snacks to those queued up to vote. Attempts to paint people negatively by the Defeated unsuccessful. I was astonished at the failure of the Defeated to effectively use Web 1.0 & Web 2.0. Even in NSW local government elections of 1999, I emailed out campaign strategy, policies & tools, to our team of 15 candidates & supporters. Basic web pages created a campaign presence, when shut out by the mainstream media. It was to be the most successful of all my team’s election campaigns in 20 years.
History ? Change is inevitable. But then the same lessons to be learned again.... Smarter tools really can’t be ignored, or banned by traditional IT management. Web 2.0, in all of its forms is here. People will find ways to use them officially, or otherwise, even outside the organization. To get the benefits – realistic governance is needed to direct, guide, help & enable users.
Nov 8, 2008
November 12 2008 marks the 130th anniversary of the formation of the British Engine Insurance Ltd, originally known as the "The Engine and Boiler Insurance Company" - set up by RB Langridge. And from its origin in 1878, its Chief Engineer, M Langridge submitted an annual technical report (Knowledge Base ?) to the board (one of Arthur Shelley's elevator conversations ?) - covering "post mortems of dead equipment" ... aiming to improve safety, efficiency & equipment reliability. It all resonates with the thoughts of Professor James Reason - advocate of the mindful and High Performance Organization.
British Engine Insurance had been a pioneer in Knowledge Management, passionately committed in the 1870's, to preventing explosions killing dozens of people each year ... just as many do today to prevent explosions
November 12 2008 marks the 130th anniversary of the formation of the British Engine Insurance Ltd (now part Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group plc), originally known as the "The Engine and Boiler Insurance Company" - set up by RB Langridge. And from its origin in 1878, its Chief Engineer, M Langridge submitted an annual technical report (Knowledge Base ?) to the board (one of Arthur Shelley's elevator conversations ?) - covering "post mortems of dead equipment" ... aiming to improve safety, efficiency & equipment reliability. It all resonates with the thoughts of Professor James Reason - advocate of the mindful and High Performance Organization.
British Engine Insurance had been a pioneer in Knowledge Management, passionately committed in the 1870's, to preventing explosions killing dozens of people each year - helping to achieve cultural change in "boilermen" & asset owners/managers alike. They used visual inspection & the KM tools of the day ... maybe not all the highly technical NDE (NonDestructive Engineering/Inspection - similar to medical techniques of ultrasound, X-ray, CT Scan) instruments nor the databases, document management systems, emails, internet, communities of practice, wikis, blogs, Web 2.0 etc ... but they willingly & enthusiastically captured knowledge - then shared it very widely .. being exploited for decades .... as an embryonic beginning of the governance engineering culture in much of today's power industry.
Professionally, my great passions are forensic engineering aka failure analysis, knowledge, quality & safety management - avoiding reinventing the wheel .... in mid 1981... I was a young metallurgist and permitted to join the Failure Analysis Metallurgical team, then led passionately by David Barnett (now AINDT CEO - An immigrant from the UK, Dave has now served Australian industry for 45 years). Dave has always been a devout follower of the "British Engine Insurance" Technical Reports. In our field, these Technical Reports had broken new ground in establishing a culture of knowledge capture, management & sharing - way back in 1879. Although I was initially perplexed back in 1981, as to how an insurance company could possibly do failure investigations ... I learnt.
Problems had emerged with boilers exploding as early as 1815, and even in the 1850's, a few engineers began to recognise it was essential to do regular inspection of equipment to prevent catastrophic, & often fatal, explosions. RB Langridge was a key figure in the Manchester Steam Users Association, the first boiler inspection company- set up in 1854 ...he had strong views on regular equipment inspection programmes - and he was prepared to stand by them - he even resigned in 1859 when his vision of linking insurance cover to regular condition monitoring inspections was not accepted.
In 1878 RB Langridge argued to his employers, The Steam Boiler Assurance Company, that steam engines should be brought into the inspection scheme. He firmly believed that "accidents resulting from the disruption of the very large flywheels of the engines of the day could be as violent and explosive as boiler explosions and could similarly be reduced by routine inspection." So, his views falling on deaf ears, he resigned again, and formed the "The Engine and Boiler Insurance CO. Ltd"... and in 1932 the firm merged with the old MSUA - enlarging British Engine Insurance Ltd. In the meantime all sorts of fanciful theories for causes of the explosions began to flourish, one being "the spheroidisation of water".
Note - in the 1860-70's, up to 60 people pa would be killed in boiler explosions in the UK, with 31 explosions in 1880. In 1879, M Langridge classified the causes of the breakdown of engines (& the root causes seem remarkably unchanged !) in the first annual technical report to the Board (Elevator conversation & Knowledge Base ? ) as follows ......
- 49% - due to accidental causes - eg some twine was dropped into the casing
- 14% - due to negligence of attendants eg brass had worn through - but it hadn't been checked for a very long time
- 23% - due to old defects, flaws and wear - many cases of pre-existing cracks preceding final fracture were cited
- 14% - due to weakness and faulty construction - eg incorrect fitting
Further he identified what would be known decades later as fatigue & the role of residual stress in fracture ..."it should be remembered that under variable strains of a certain intensity, especially when alternately tensile and compressive, the strength of metals gradually decreases, until ultimately rupture takes place with a comparatively light load; and also, that iron or steel, when in a high state of strain, will give way under a slight jar which would not otherwise affect it." I have always believed that it takes special traits to make good inspectors - attention to detail, crawl around in arduous conditions & to get it all documented in a meaningful way. These factors remain crucial in engineering to this day, eg planes, oil rigs, gas pipelines.
Effective KM was to be a crucial component in the changes necessary to stop the industry killing its own
(Reference - British Engine Technical Report 1978 Volume XIII - 1878-1978 100Years of Service to Industry.)
Nov 7, 2008
Before the 1882 Act, only 20,000 of 110, 000 boilers in the country were being inspected - explosions were attributed to "age, corrosion & wastage". In some ways the reticence to inspect was not surprising - the costs & it does involve quite a lot to take a boiler down for inspection and then bring it back online – not just a matter of flicking a switch. After the 1882 Act, the bar charts showed an amazing plummet in explosions and deaths. And they dropped again after the introduction of the 1901 Factory & Workshop Act. Those outcomes are step change metrics that many organizations would be thrilled in achieving. In Germany, by 1900, Munich Re was beginning to consider industrial equipment insurance issues.
However it was not just about inspecting susceptible equipment – KM was vital. M Langridge was passionate about documenting & passing on the lessons to the next generation, as stated in his 1906 report ... "Many of the experiences set forth in the following pages are no more than old acquaintances dressed in new clothes, familar pictures with fresh backgrounds and the paragraphs in which they are described but new presentments of ancient histories. But in ephemeral literature repetition is not to be despised so long as the mistakes and difficulties dealt with continue to be made and felt; so long as there are young ones growing up to make the like mistakes and suffer the same troubles as their elders, unless warned by the records of the experience of the past. And particularly is this true when the experiences gathered are of a kind that comparatively few have opportunities of gathering."
And in his 1908 report, Langridge again reiterated the KM message ... "The old causes of accidents remain. The familiar consequences follow, and history repeats itself in the Company's little world no less than in the march of nations.... Nor is it well entirely to ignore the old, for what is old to some is new to others. Those who have learnt the lessons of experience pass away, and others who have yet to learn take up the work. They find to their cost that much of the old is new. ... There are two kinds of things men's eyes and minds ignore - those they have never seen and those which speaking vulgarly, are always in front of their noses. To inform them of the one and remind them of the other is fitting work for the instructed scribe..."
However success could not allow complacency. And in 1917-27 explosions of caustic cracking due to failing boiler rivets appeared - failing from a combined corrosion and straining beyond yield point. 1928 saw the onset of failures due to welding - in the absence of advice on proper design, permissible stress levels, construction methods or inspection requirements ... problems with lack of fusion in welding were reported. Ultimately changes were called for - including pressure testing. (Note - From 1946-1964, the reports were written by the Research Engineer, GA Cottrell - an icon in the field of metallurgy for many students of the 1970-90’s).
This legacy of boiler inspection in the UK, which was carried through generations of families, continues via the SaFed. It has now been extended to a much wider range of assets - oil rigs, turbines, plants in chemical, iron& steel industries.
And all around the world - the boiler inspectors, together with other specialists in inspection - NDE, lifting, condition monitoring, structural condition & those in failure investigation - forensic engineering specialists, such as Neil Barnett, (20 years experienced, carved out his own niche & firmly stepped outside Dave's shadow) ... are all supporting today's asset owners, managers, shop floor operators & maintainers. Together .... all dedicated to preventing equipment problems, improving safety & documenting what they find into today's knowledge bases & sharing it across networks & Communities of Practice (COP's).
The language of the old British Engine Technical Reports may be archaic and quaint ... but their KM & Governance messages remains constant ... checking, sharing and learning ... to save people's lives....
(Reference - British Engine Technical Report 1978 Volume XIII - 1878-1978 100Years of Service to Industry.)
Nov 4, 2008
And, we the "cranky" technologist/engineering "Hermit Crabs", with apologies to Arthur Shelley's "The Organizational Zoo", belatedly realised, just in time, that we had to do the "elevator messages" to key stakeholders ... ... of how the Knowledge initiatives benefit our organization ... to politik, spin & drag the IT "Whales" back out to sea ... just in time saving these "Whales" from in fact "beaching" us all.
Back around the year 2000 Laurie Lock Lee, then at CSC, established Communities of Practice (COP's) in my organization ... it was really early days and so it was hardly today's 2008 Web 2.0 stuff ... nevertheless, several years later, there were 80++ COP's running in our organization - linking people across our global organization in key engineering / technology /organizational management / OHS COP's. Given a nudge by Laurie in mid 2000, I participated in a number of engineering/technology COP's - even setting up & administering several in the quality & forensic engineering fields.
And of course over time, as with all communities and networks, some dropped off and new communities formed. Our Knowledge Consultant Barbara Netterfield did a cleanup of the dormant COP's and reminded us of how they should run.. ie Kerrie ... it's not like Moses coming down with the 10 commandments... just remember ... ask a question Kerrie .. ask open-ended questions....
What I personally still continue to experience .... is the amazing generosity of colleagues ... some whom I was not to meet face to face for several years ... some maybe never .... of how they willingly shared their knowledge and experience to those who needed it eg they offered tips to "newbie" engineers asking advice on such esoteric subjects as the flammability of carbon monoxide, quality management policies & how to do security on pdf documents . And when one engineer wanted to use a really big old concrete storage tank we tracked down who "really" knew all the key engineering details ... and saved much embarrassment in avoiding probs with OHS, EPA etc ... leaks etc... not to mention in many cases ... countless hours, days, even weeks saved in unnecessary "reinventing the wheel" .... some very high value transactions from the COP's indeed ... but not necessarily measured to become part of the official IT KPI's & metrics. But when Barbara and Laurie did a social network analysis of our area, they found it relatively tightly networked, but at risk of fragmenting if we didn't do something proactively, ahead of a few key babyboomer retirements. We listened and acted ... and even et up another COP ... the Technologist's Helpline.
Global examples I recall the young chemical engineer from Indonesia who asked some questions and who was supported by the full intellectual horsepower of our Australian based chemical engineers, even transcending when our countries' relationships became a tad strained ... it was amazing stuff to be honest. Then as climate change-global warming-greenhouse issues exploded onto the agenda & our COP's kept us informed ... eg who was capturing and using rainwater off major industrial buildings on our site. And when Santos had probs with their Moomba site - put it out of action for a while - where the national business media even "rabbited" on about such obscure technical issues as "Liquid Metal Embrittlement of Aluminium by Mercury at cryogenic temperatures", then I, who was a materials engineer and not a chemical engineer at all, was asked to help out the chemical engineering community understand what it meant for them. Such an amazing amount of knowledge so freely shared and willingly accepted ..... by members of the ostensibly technologist / engineering "Hermit Crabs" COP's ... we just wanted to get on with creating solutions ... the "PR" spin and politicking could be left to others ....
But then Microsoft Sharepoint arrived ... actually I am a big user of Sharepoint Wikis along with our COP's ... but it was as though anything that preceded Sharepoint was no longer. It was rather telling for me when one IT bod, who helps me out heaps, looked at me in wonderment when I mentioned the COP's - he had forgotten all about them and seemed perplexed that the engineering and like technologists were still using them. But, in fact many COP's still continued ... it was such a nice easy way to share news in your community and ask a question when you needed help. And if you wanted to post a document, then you could make a few comments and ask your community what they thought. And it was so easy to set up a COP ... whereas setting up a Sharepoint site just seemed so tortuous ... official approval and not nearly as friendly and welcoming as our much loved COP's. But no IT geeks were looking after them ... nor was anyone paying for them .... but they continued to deliver value. Unfortunately we Hermit Crabs forgot to tell anyone "the elevator messages" & how much benefit they brought ... so many lessons not having to be relearned ... so much time and $'s saved! We just forgot to share that good news...
Then one day a key IT geek decided to announce that the COP's would be defunct .. he gave lots of notice... but he announced it on the top level COP page that virtually no one ever uses ... and there was no official announcement to the administrators of the 80++ COP's. And of course most people have short cuts for their individual COP and haven't looked at the main page in years .. literally! And then he asked a question on a top level COP page ... again no one ever used that one either ... if they had a question of course everyone went straight to the most appropriate of the 80++ COP's. The IT geek had perceived that the recorded hit rate for each COP might have been higher than the real one.... but actually it was probably the reverse .... especially with the flow-on as team members shared the emails they received from the COP with others.
So after a couple of weeks with no response to his announcement, nor to his test question, both posted to the 2 areas that were rarely ever used, the IT geek convinced himself that the COP's were dead. There seemed to be no passionate owners of sites. So perhaps no one would even notice if they were archived onto tape and just disappeared .... But, had he drilled down to individual COP's, he would have found several dozen that were still active and flourishing ... with very passionate owners .... in fact many organizations pursuing Knowledge programmes would have been ecstatic with such shared activity.
During this all of this phase my laptop motherboard died, so I was off the air in total ignorance. When the laptop was reincarnated, I went to post a message onto a COP ... as my organization, like so many around the globe, was at that point taking in the global financial situation ... and I had been posting to fellow COP members around the globe ... seeking their input to create a composite assessment of a changed regulatory situation in one of our markets.
And thus I found myself greeted with "Analysis of Comunities of Practice usage logs indicates that the COP is not being used. This application will be decomissioned and the information it contains archived on 10th Nov 2009. If you wish to maintain any COP functionality you will need to migrate the particular COP into a Sharepoint teams site." .... It was all a bit like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".... remember that from way back when ..... the main character is told that his home is to be demolished for something like an intergalactical superhighway.
A few excitable phone calls followed ... the IT geek acknowledged that finally someone with passion had responded to his message .... a bit like sending out messages to aliens in the galaxies and hoping they speak English ??? ... remember Stephen Spielberg's ET :"Phone home"??
Some postings to key users of various COP's followed. The result was like one of David Gurteen's "reverse brainstorms" as it dawned on fairly conservative engineers that "the plug might be pulled". In fact I got a few calls demanding that I not axe their COP's ... ironic in that I was trying to achieve an orderly "change management and transition to Sharepoint" process. It then emerged that no migration project plan had been put in place
... a day or so later the "Hitchhiker... " like message had been pulled from the main COP website.. We COP users were told not to panic ... that it was now all going to be fixed in the proper IT-like project management way .... just like an IT Programme Office should do it, according to my "other half" who runs such an IT Programme Office.
In the meantime the global community continued and my COP maintained contact across Asia, Europe, Asia and the Pacific ... not withstanding our "Hitchhiker" style fright.
And so we the "cranky" technologist/engineering "Hermit Crabs", with apologies to Arthur Shelley's "The Organizational Zoo", had to realise that we needed to do the "elevator messages" to key stakeholders ... ... of how the Knowledge initiatives benefit our organization ... to politik, spin & drag the IT "Whales" back out to sea ... just in time saving these "Whales" from in fact "beaching" us all.