The Society for the German language e.V. selected “postfaktisch” – post-truth, in English – as their word of the year in 2016. The word indicates that emotions are worth more than facts in political and societal discussions. The mental coherence rule¹ explains how people function without facts or absolute truth. What’s new with post-truthism is that the simple effects of not knowing develop more quickly through IT structures and available networks. So facts arise that lay out of the control of individuals, but they leave traces in each IT system. How can these traces be used for fact-controlled management?
How did that just happen?
When did you last shake your head in disbelief or surprise? Were you surprised by the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States? Did you predict Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, or the passing of the constitutional reform in Turkey? These political changes pit the existing interactions between nations to the test. Maybe you were also surprised by the report that the firm Samsung, despite difficulties with the Galaxy 7 smartphone with its burning batteries and a global recall, managed to double their profits in the last quarter of 2016? I, personally, am amazed by the 8.7 million kilometres travelled around the end of 2016 in order to hunt virtual Pokémon.
Handling the change and the linking of existing expertise with new information and knowledge is not only of interest to knowledge managers, it is one of the central tasks of management. Despite automatization, despite knowledge management, despite expert knowledge, it happens that management is constantly surprised by emerging supply problems, new customer wishes and the resulting unexpected staff attitude. Management can then either a) keep to its planning and work against these discrepancies or b) cater to the framework in advance, thematize the previously unknown facts in real time, so as to use them directly for the adaptation of business processes.
Agreements AND decoupling
When were you last misunderstood by a partner, friend or colleague? Which contacts do you avoid because life is more comfortable without these people? There are people with whom we enjoy spending time and others whom we avoid. It is good like this, because our time is limited and we should handle it carefully. I had faith that consensus in large styles is still achievable. Indeed, I failed with my project consensor.org. In my philosophical cafés, experts from different fields of knowledge met up regularly to talk about defined themes. Indeed, when experts from different fields of knowledge meet, every expert brings their own language, models and domain knowledge with them. So normally a lot of time is spent on defining concepts, translating meanings and the use of commonly understandable metaphors. Unfortunately, this often leads to people talking at crossed purposes. I could gain an important piece of knowledge from these meetings: for successful cooperation and cohabitation, both agreement and decoupling are required. For making agreements, a common understanding is necessary. If this does not exist, there are two possibilities to handle this. Either one takes the time to create a communication intersection in the form of separated models and language or one reduces the common time to zero. Many unnecessary conflicts can dissolve into nothingness with context-focus and decoupling.
An example of decoupling
It is not very surprising that the IT department thinks differently to the sales department. Employees in sales act market-driven and dynamically. They develop innovative products and want perfect service. The IT department wants their IT systems to work long-term and reliably. The less diverse and more standardized the systems are, the easier this can be realized. Usually the urgently needed adaptations of the business processes have a low priority in the IT sector. This is easily comprehensible from an IT perspective. From the perspective of adding value for the whole business, the new business processes have to be directly implemented. Sales, responsible for processes, has to be active in their firm-political process plans, so that the change to the business process gets a higher priority on the task list of the IT department. That can be very exhausting and success is not guaranteed. You quickly prepare a resignation and just pursue whatever is available. Do you recognize this feeling of powerlessness?
How are decisions about necessary adaptations to your business process decided? Who has the competence to evaluate how important the implementation of a change is for the business? In the end, the top management are required as mediation between the IT department, specialist department and those responsible for the processes. If the sales department has the ability and time to implement their own business processes, then they would be independent from the IT department and therefore decoupled. Conflicts will not even arise. You can imagine it like a smartphone: as a user you can personalize the apps yourself, without having to agree on something with a programmer. Wouldn’t it be nice if business processes were also so simple?
An example of agreement
IT structure clearly states what is agreed upon. If something doesn’t fit, then IT users can’t communicate this without knowledge of programming or processes. Most users can even ad hoc initiate a business process. This option must, of course, be supported by the IT system and the new facts should be the subject in an ensuing agreement. There you can determine whether and how the IT system should behave with the new contents. Certainly it is easier to adapt something over and over again than to agree from the get-go how future business processes should have to look in the end. Experienced business processes create a common context which can be easily spoken about. From the difficulty of considering many different perspectives, agreement processes are often ended with a decision by a group or person. An iterative process is better, wherein the experiences and the diverse perspectives of all IT users are continually considered.
The balance between agreement and decoupling
Suitable balance between agreement and decoupling between IT departments, those responsible for processes and users makes sure that customer desires can be more quickly and satisfactorily fulfilled in service and that employees’ ideas flow into the business processes. For this, the business must be able to implement these changes quickly – independent of the IT department. So all participants gain:
- The IT department can concentrate on their own work and don’t have to understand the details of constantly changing business processes or constantly worry about them.
- Supervisors of the processes replace firm politics on the bases of process plans with agreed to and experienced business processes that always suit better and better.
- The employees bring their ideas and can react to new situations and customer desires ad hoc.
- The CEO is glad about the peaceful transformation of the business in the right direction.
 An explanation of the mental coherence rule, in German: http://nichtwissen.com/Wissen_über_Nichtwissen/psychische-kohärenzregelung