Organizational Patterns LO17985

Fred Nickols (
Tue, 5 May 1998 12:19:50 +0000

Replying to Michael A. Beedle in LO17965 --

>To my knowledge, you (Gene Bellinger), Mike McMaster, Paul Evitts, Nigel
>Vickers, Fred Nickols, Martine Devos and Don Dwiggins and I (Mike Beedle),
>are some of the people working on, or with "patterns" in this list.

Let's see if I can describe briefly the nature of my interest in

Although my e-mail signature suggests I am a consultant, my consulting
practice is a sideline. My full-time employment is as head of strategic
planning and management services at Educational Testing Service (ETS).

A while back the CEO asked me to design a process for use in developing
the company's strategic research plan. Typically, processes are defined
in terms of the input-process-output or state-change paradigm, the
conversion or transformation of one thing or form into another. The
state-change model is fine for materials, data and even some information
processing applications. In my view, it does not work as well with
knowledge-based processes. So, I began by defining "process" in the
context of strategic planning as "a set of recurring, patterned
conversations." Such a definition leads quickly to a concern with
conversation-related matters such as venue, agenda, discussants, timing
and so on. Process design, then, becomes a matter of structuring and
organizing these patterned conversations. (I also happen to think that
many efforts wearing the label "knowledge management" could be greatly
improved upon if knowledge management were viewed as a process consisting
of patterned conversations, but that's a different story.)

Anyway, we are setting out to devise a strategic research planning process
that proceeds from the premises outlined above. We are also revisiting
the company's overall strategic planning process from that same
perspective. It has not escaped me that the process of design is itself a
set of patterned conversations.

Clearly, at least in terms of my own experience, we are breaking new
ground. If I'm off "reinventing the wheel" and others have done this
before, I'm certainly open to leads and pointers that will save us having
to do that.

One very positive thing I can tell you about our current effort is that
everyone takes an immediate liking to the definition of knowledge-based
processes as "sets of recurring, patterned conversations." It is almost
as though words have been given to something they have always known to be


Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company

"The Internet offers the best graduate-level education
to be found anywhere."


Fred Nickols <>

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